As many will know, we have been away for the last few weeks and since our new website was launched we have been a bit lax in keeping you all posted of latest developments – sorry about that but really you haven’t missed much. We are in the process of forming a charity (a long and tedious affair), working on the various courses we will be offering next year (not tedious at all but you’ll have to wait for our announcements) and continuing the edit for our documentary (for me the best bit at the moment).
In the meantime we’ve had an email ….
This image was taken by Harry Banks. Harry is the daughter of Jo Bousfield, a good friend and one of the trustees of THE GOOD GRIEF PROJECT. Last week Jo (aka Jo B) wrote to us
“ Dear Jane and Jimmy
I’d like to share with you that when Harry knew she was terminally ill she did various things that were important to her. One of them was that she asked me to take close up portrait photos of people she loved, and she had that book of them by her bed wherever she went. And she invited about 46 of those loved ones to a big lunch party here in the co-housing communal kitchen. After lunch (which was cooked by the friends) we shared stuff (people sang, danced, told personal stories) in the comfy co-housing sitting room. And eventually Harry wheeled herself out in front of us all and talked to us about her love for us and how it was going to be all right. She was going to become part of the wind, trees, nature, whirling about having a good time. Then she said she wanted a photo of everyone. I said ‘I’ll take it !” and she said ‘No Mum, it’s my photo of you all. I’m looking at you”
Photography is a hugely useful tool when it comes to remembering our dead, not just because it reminds us what they looked like when alive, not just because a photograph confirms that yes they did once exist, but also because they give us access to all those stories that they inhabited.
But what’s unusual about these images, is that the photos are themselves the story. And unlike most photographs (which if you think about it are always of the past – once taken they become history) the story is told purposefully not just with an eye to the past but with an eye on the future.
It’s a photo taken by someone who would die in 3 months, of her loved ones looking at her, with that knowledge. It’s quite a concept isn’t it? I see the tense smiles as well as the relaxed merry faces. I printed the three photos and joined them together and I put it in her coffin so that she had us all there with her on her journey
As part of our work with THE GOOD GRIEF PROJECT – Jane and I deliver a workshop we call ‘Exploring Grief with Photography”. More than any other medium photography offers us both solace and a whole range of creative possibilities. It has been said that a photograph will always outlive its subject matter. In that sense a photo presents an illusion of life as well as a conflation of time. Our purpose with the workshop is to work with this idea (this contradiction if you like) first as a way of helping you to more fully acknowledge death but also as a means to maintaining an on going relationship with your loved one. What we try to show is that while a photograph is always of the past, it is always seen in the present, and that we can work with it to frame a future, both with and without our dead.
What is so very special about Harry Banks’ photographs is that they preempt this. Her purpose was to surround herself with photos of all her loved ones before her death and in the full knowledge of her death – as keepsakes if you like, to help her die.
‘The way she dealt with her death journey was extraordinary (not saying it was easy, because it was absolutely not) but she gazed at it full in the face and we, her family and friends, were allowed by her to give her everything she requested and to support her in a myriad of ways, so now there is no regret or bitterness about the process if you see what I mean… we feel that in the given circumstances we all, including Harry, made the very best of it. Love abounded in the best possible way for us.” (Jo B)
These are photos of the living, gazing on one who would soon die. I know some of them but many I don’t. And sadly I never had the good fortune to ever meet Harry but I see her and I can know about her in the faces of her family and her friends. Her legacy is in the lives of all those who knew her and I’m wondering if she thought about that when she raised her camera to record them.
“It’s November which is her birthday month and I’m weeping copiously …” (Jo B)
Thanks for reading
14th Nov 2016
Remembering Harry Banks (died 10 January 2012 aged 31)