As part of my journey to becoming a funeral photographer, I’ve spent countless hours being guided (whether they know it or not) by some of the most interesting and thoughtful people involved in death and dying. From forward looking funeral planners to end of life doulas; from these brave grieving parents to Sheffield Cancer Mafia. I’ve learned a lot more about the way we are viewing dying and death, and I’m really encouraged by these people and their openness and honesty about it all. This process of understanding better has served to firmly support my feeling more and more that this is a true vocation for me (not in a religious way, but something I should be dedicating myself to). It’s not just a commercial endeavour – far from it; I couldn’t do it if it was only about making money. There has to be more to it for me, and as much as I’d really love to be in the position to offer my services for free, all the time, I still have bills to pay and mouths to feed.
I really do believe that the photographs I take can help people come to terms with ‘the end’, and I wanted to do some voluntary work with my photography, so began looking at how and what I could do. I came across a group of photographers who help parents going through the terrible experience of having a stillborn baby. I have huge admiration for the photographers that work in this field, as I am not sure that I would be strong enough to keep it together in these circumstances (in much the same way, not everyone is equipped with the right strengths and attitudes to photograph funerals). Recently, however, I spoke with a friend of mine who had lost her mum to lung cancer, and she said to me “I really wish I had a photograph of me and mum in the last few weeks of her life. I didn’t take any when she was in the hospice, but with hindsight I wish I had something. Does that sound strange“? It doesn’t sound strange at all to me. I am in the same situation and have no photographs of my dad when he was in his final months. With her comments in mind, I decided to email a local hospice, but they haven’t come back to me. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the Christmas / New Year period, or if it’s because I’m a Funeral Photographer. I did make it clear in the email that I wouldn’t dream of discussing that with their patients! Maybe they are just not sure how to respond? I mean, it’s not a common thing to offer in this country yet, unlike the USA .
The point is, if you think I could be of some use somehow please let me know. I would like to be able to give something back, and hospice photography seems like an appropriate way of doing this.