Words of comfort

Words of comfort

When we die, we rarely leave a message to those we love. It strikes me as strange that we don’t write self-eulogies to be read out our funerals. The only formal way we have of communicating love after our death is through our will and testament but surely love can be expressed in forms other than the transmission of property? I photographed the funeral of Hannah Rye in 2017. Hannah Rye had been battling Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, but died aged 15. Whilst too young to die, Hannah wasn’t too young to not want to comfort those...

Feedback about my work

Feedback about my work

I have been asked to present to Funeral Celebrants Association Australia about my work so I reached out to a client whose reason for wanting a funeral book surprised me when she told me in 2015: Margaret said her father had dementia and she wanted the book to help him understand that he had lost his wife. Margaret gave me a very thoughtful and considered response when she replied last week which I quote in part below as it has given me a greater understanding of how important my work is: When dad went into care, we used the funeral...

The Time Pressure of Grieving

The Time Pressure of Grieving

I attended a funeral recently where everything went as you’d expect. The church service was good, the burial went smoothly and we went to the church hall for the wake. It was at the wake that everyone relaxed. Food was served, drinks passed round, stories were told. There was the warmth that one sees at certain wakes where people are gathered together, united in their grief yet supported by those with them who they know are feeling the same, or shades of the same. At one moment a man got out his accordion and started playing. It was wonderful. What...

Brief encounters of the most intimate kind

Brief encounters of the most intimate kind

Last year I was asked to photograph a birthday party. The celebration was for the 100th birthday of Miss Tuck. Miss Tuck had been a music teacher at an all girls’ school in Sydney. At the celebration the most enormous cake was served, with 100 candles on top which all fitted in with room to spare, music was played and a choir comprising old girls taught by Miss Tuck sang (it was one of the best “Happy Birthdays” I’ve ever heard!) Miss Tuck had macular degeneration and, with restricted central vision,  she knew I was there yet as I fixed the lens on...

Order of Service Portraits

Order of Service Portraits

After my previous blog about consciously having an order of service portrait, I photographed Tan Ho – a 90-year-old Vietnamese woman full of energy and warmth -at the request of her son, Harry. I photographed her in Harry’s home where she was relaxed as it’s a familiar space for her. Tan Ho lives in her own ‘granny flat’ at the back of Harry’s home. Family visit her daily and Harry, a restauranteur provides her with excellent food. I really liked the fact that we were at Harry’s home as a photography studio can make the sitter behave more formally. Tan’s husband...

A funeral photographer’s suggestion

A funeral photographer’s suggestion

When I design Funeral Photo Books I suggest to families that they might want to provide me with a photo of the deceased in the prime of his or her life. Too often, there aren’t any good photos. I’ve only known of  one person, Dr Viv Whittaker, who consciously arranged for a photo of himself for his order of service. It’s a beautiful photo taken by a professional studio in Sydney that no longer exists. Another family provided me with a beautiful photo of the deceased from her past and this was used for the front cover of her funeral photo book....

What funeral photography is about in 5 (there’re more!) steps

What funeral photography is about in 5 (there’re more!) steps

When I tell people I’m a funeral photographer they can be slightly taken aback. They remove “funeral” from the occupation and replace it with “wedding”. They think, “How can you be a photographer at a funeral? How can you ask people to smile?” Well, that’s not quite the point. And here are 5 (there are heaps more) points I’d like to share about being a funeral photographer. It might not be what you first imagine! i. A funeral photographer isn’t a wedding photographer! When a wedding photographer turns up at a wedding everyone knows what to expect and how to...

When I die, an amazing film by Adrian Steirn about Philip Gould living in the ‘death zone’ and why it gave him meaning

When I die, an amazing film by Adrian Steirn about Philip Gould living in the ‘death zone’ and why it gave him meaning

This inspiring video was shared by Bruce Wadd I showed it to my wife who reacted as I did. She cried and said it was beautiful and dignified. Her reactions just like mine. Thank you Bruce so much for sending this. “Wow” indeed! Yes, as I sat watching this, and listening to Philip talking so intelligently and brilliantly and simply about life/death I thought, too, “wouldn’t it be great if we could give everyone this opportunity?” What strikes me is the essence of it all, how life is reduced to telling those nearest us the simplest things. This is totally inspiring....

Funeral photography and why it matters

Funeral photography and why it matters

We live in a society where it is more important to look good than to be good. Universities in Sydney are spending millions on building acquisitions yet teacher salaries and conditions are falling. Most of the news we are presented with reports on people failing to treat each other with respect. It is almost as if trust in humanity has completely broken down, we are happy to invest in anything other than people since we don’t value them. So I think it is important to document evidence that humanity still exists and I find ample evidence for this at funerals....