Photos from RELEASED / Part 1
These photos are from RELEASED – a photo-book that Jimmy produced in the first few months after Josh died and soon after we had collected his ashes from the crematorium. When words aren’t enough to express the deep emotions that accompany grief, photographs can provide a very real alternative as we engage (as we must) with the awful reality we now inhabit.
‘And then there was the word “released’ on the label. The word seemed to have powerful and poignant if elusive meaning. Who or what was being released. Why did his ashes need to be released and to whom? Were they property being transferred from one ownership to another? The word seem to carry legal authority. The state had performed its duty and we now had permission to do whatever we wished with his remains. It’s as if he had been imprisoned and was now at liberty to continue his journey. From life into death and beyond.
And importantly I was now released to start another photographic journey … with and without my son.’
We the decanted his ashes into a more elegant vessel with surprising results.
/ Part 2
‘Released’ is also an exploration of the nature of photography itself. My photographs of Joshua have acquired an almost talismanic value – a mysterious and magical gateway to a new and unknown place in my imaginings. Yet …
‘There is both pain and pleasure in the spectre of his photograph. It asks me to reconcile the fact of his death with a stubborn fantasy that his image represents a Joshua that still has life.’
Roland Barthes called photographs a ‘perfect illusion’ – photography exists as an art form because of the ‘thereness’ of it’s subject matter (a photograph is always an image of something or somebody) but becomes something else as it moves into history. Time flows onward but it cannot erase the ‘intractable reality’ of Josh’s death. The next section of my book explores this new reality.
‘His deceiving image and his hard gritty ashes compete for my attention.’
/ Part 3
Of all the photos we have of Joshua, there is one that has achieved a kind of iconic status. This is the ‘sleepy’ picture, one that I had taken as a joke and a reference to a project I was engaged in at the time – making street portraits of strangers with their eyes closed. Along with the obvious (and perhaps soothing) association between sleep and death, the photo speaks to the confusion and a chaos of meaning lying at the heart of photography – a confusion that … ‘mirrors almost exactly my own bewilderment about Joshua being dead, of Joshua being ‘not alive’.
Josh had used this image for his business card (he was a video producer for the Ministry of Sound) and I now carry it with me at all times. And until they ran out I would leave them in landscapes with views he could enjoy even with his eyes closed. The cards are at the mercy of the elements and in time, they will weather and fade. A return to nature which helped me as I came to realise that mine was not such a special grief.
‘His memory will stay strong but the fact of his death will become more commonplace as he takes his place in the shared anonymity of all the worlds dead.’
/ Part 4
Released is my first attempt to use photography as a way of coming to terms with Joshua’s death, of processing my grief. To find a voice again and a visual language to express and share my feelings – our feelings. As a family our lives were thrown into confusion. As we lost trust with the world around us. With his death we were confronted by our own mortality.
‘What we want his is now silent and unchanging image to instruct us on the difference between life and death’
Released is first and foremost a photographic response to Josh’s death. I have, though, included a few writings.
This is, of course, an on going project. As the years pass I continue to explore my relationship with Josh, to create, imagine, re imagine, and re connect with my son. Trying to find a new way of telling and a new way sharing. Please explore our other photo galleries including images made by guests on our Active Grief Weekends.
‘Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world’ . (Bruno Barbey)
Thanks for being here.
You can buy or download RELEASED by clicking here.