MoMento 7: Bridgit Anderson: Caring for the Dead

MoMento 7: Bridgit Anderson: Caring for the Dead

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PhotoForum MoMento 7: Bridgit Anderson: Caring for the Dead.

Published by PhotoForum, February 2011

Essay by Barbara Garrie.

Editor: Amanda A'Hara

Design: Amanda A'Hara and Mark Leonard Watts

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Caring for the Dead

A photographic essay on the funeral profession

Over the course of a year (2005/6) I worked closely with staff in a funeral home, as well as with the deceased and their families, to produce this series of photographs. The work focuses on the journey of the body from the time of death to that of burial or cremation. It’s not a linear narrative in the traditional sense but rather it is made up of multiple narratives covering a range of cultural experiences. My aim is not to be sensational or gratuitous but to draw attention to what would normally remain hidden.

The images in the exhibition document the daily rituals involved in caring for the dead as I experienced them. Photography has played a central role in memorialising the dead since it’s invention. I own a collection of 19th century glass plate negatives from an East London portrait studio and while cataloguing them I came across a lot of death portraits. These were local, ordinary people. They look as though they are asleep and I was struck by their simplicity, humanity and beauty. Death is a natural part of everyday life, yet ordinary, everyday death generally remains hidden from view.

I had a very personal motivation for wanting to go behind the scenes of a funeral home. I lost my mother at the age of seven. It was 1970. The adults took charge and we weren’t included in the funeral. It’s an experience I’ve carried with me into adulthood. I’ve always wanted to know what her journey would have been and to say goodbye myself.

Bridgit Anderson