In a notebook, I first clarified the underlying narrative that I wanted to express and proceeded to filter-out images that met that criteria. Short provides some good pointers for this in Context and Narrative (Short, 2011. p102-107). The key messages I wanted to express were:
- Whilst parts of the day were extemely moving and sad, this was fundamentally a celebration of a life well lived
- The power of objects; small details. The shrine/alar to the deceased was a key focal point for the day, drawing emotions of both celebration and deepest grief at different times in proceedings. I wanted to capture the power of sentimentality within inanimate objects. Every item was there for a specific reason.
- Biodegradable balloons carrying wild flower seeds were released, carring a strong message of hope, loss, potential new life (along with more obvious metaphors of death associated with letting go; something rising to the sky).
Following this I expected further iterations of sorting and refinement before arriving at the final submission.
The final result is a balance, with an equal number of images either side of a punctum, an unexpected change of viewpoint. The first half acknowledges loss and grieving. The second a different pespective, a celebration of life. The work images are intended to raise questions about how we relate to death as a society.
Key decisions taken in editing
- The sequence is intended to take the viewer on a journey:
- Observing a gathering in progress
- Literal and signified respresentations of loss, solitude and sadness
- A sudden, unexpected change of perspective
- A celebration of life then, finally, new hope.
- I chose not to include the widowed husband in any of the submitted images. Although he was willing, the reason for this was that I wanted the viewer to have space to explore their own relationship with death and loss, rather than being asked to relate to someone else’s situation.
Flowers feature in three of the images, providing a signifier towards impernance (a key theme in their Buddhist beliefs on life and death). In the first half of the set the connotation is of lonliness and abandonment – a single stem discarded on an empty chair. Later in the series the same flower is seem in a more positive light – looking upwards. Finally, the cycle of life is pointed out to us with new hope for the future – a young boy offering a flower as a gift.
My first ‘cut’ had more detail shots of ceremonial items included. Although these were visually interesting, I reviewed this decision later in the editing process because they appeared to detract from the key meanings around the main paradox of grieving for a loss and celebrating a life simultaneously. These were therefore removed to give a final sequence of 11 images.
Short, M. (2011). Context and Narrative. Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA.