Monday, September 23, 2013

The scattering of ashes

I've just been asked to photograph a funeral this  friday.  The scattering of ashes, a celebration of life. I said yes straight away.  The "guest of honour" was a damn fine man who loved a joke and a story and brought up two good, hard working, honest lads and made his wife proud everyday. A tight knit family with grandkids that adored their pop.
When asked if I could record the event I was never going to say no, but I was really happy when the "service" was outlined to me.   He was not a god fearing, church going, man. But a man who held the beach close to his heart so when told it was a beachside affair I was really pleased the family had chosen to avoid the trappings of the sad "funeral home" type service in favour of a community celebration of a life well lived.   The order of service is finalised......and it will be casual and comfortable.  Informal is a good term.   I have my role in the day organised, planned in a single phone call, set in stone.  From the shot list I know what gear I will need and where I need to be at what part of the celebration.  Planning makes it all very easy and, for me, it will be good to keep busy.

I have photographed a few funerals in the past.  Some family, some work related and some just because the haze of grief is often so strong a physical reminder is needed.   I am usually asked to record the event when distance is a factor or aged relatives, too unwell to undertake the journey,  want to be a part of it.  The final images are a way for those people to see the crowd and give them, even in absentia, some closure.    I have also photographed the casket topper flowers to be made into thank you cards. There are printers here in Australia that will do a short quick print run and the card can have specific names and dates on the reverse.   I know a few other photographers who also have been asked to record such events, but I hope it never becomes a commercialised trend.

So if you see me pointing a camera at you on friday arvo don't hide.  Stand and be proud and know that  the family will be glad to see your face.

Monday, September 16, 2013


I have signed up for an ABC workshop on creative writing and given the task of writing a 500 word piece about failure.  When I read
the email about the workshop my first thought was ... oh dear god I'm going to fail at this!!!  I was very ordinary at writing at school and haven't done any study since that half baked attempt at a Combined Arts/Law Degree in the 90's. I knew it would be a struggle.   My mind began to wander back thru the last half century to see what failures I have endured and what was I prepared to admit to.  My first failure must have been as a seven year old when I pulled out of the ballet recital because they wanted me to pop around the curtain and tip my top hat at the end of the show.  I was way to shy to do anything like that so ...  FAIL!  Then there were similar fails in the Marching Girls display and my Flute exams.  Fail Fail Fail!  So before I hit my teens failure seemed to be a regular and accepted occurrence in my world.

My teen years were similarly smattered with more failures ...  High School Maths, the Year 10 production of Jesus Christ Superstar and mini bike races all delivered varying levels of failure.

As my working life commenced I can but assume there have been failures in my 30 odd years of daily grind. Strangely NONE  immediately sprang to mind.  That made me wonder WHY I didn't recall those important working life failures.  I'm sure there were failures, especially after such a opulent  and glorious start to a life rich in failure.   It was then I began to examine the concept of failure as it relates to me.

Having never really given my long and diverse list of failures much thought before, the more I rewound my life's failures, the more I began to consider failure to be a positive force in my existance.  Maybe better said I don't really consider failure to be a negative experience.  I began to see failure as more like a building block for success.  Foundation. Yes, foundation is a good word.  Without the failure there would have been no desire to improve, push forward, strive, continue.  Failure is a filter of my level of interest in a given subject.   If I fail at something, but continue to try, that must mean I find it interesting and worth having another go at!  Unlike Ballet, where I chucked my ballet flats in my white and pink "beauty case" and never went back!

So I guess this post on the ABC Workshop writing about failure is, in fact,  a failure in its own right.
I haven't failed in that I have written it, but it is more about the positive aspects of failure than the sad and negative connotations the word failure usually evokes.  Whether that makes me a "glass half full" rather than a "glass half empty" person, I do not know, but I do know I will continue to fail through my remaining days.  I also know I will continue to grow and learn from my abject failures.  As  should we all.   Anyone who says they have never failed has done so with those words alone!