It is true that you can never go back and re-write the days you had with your loved ones - and this certainly includes regrets over not taking photos at key moments.
Once you have made peace with this fact, there are many ideas for people who are grieving the lack of pictorial archives. It is truly only limited by your imagination and what you feel comfortable with.
You might consider simply to put out a call to friends that you are looking for pictures of your beloved. It may never occur to your friends or family to look through their archives and send any photos that they possess... what is more, some might question if it is appropriate to send you pictures thinking that it might upset you, especially if it is unsolicited. Let people know that you are actively trying to increase you library and would cherish any photos they might share.
With the photos you do have in your possession... you might consider the following:
- Some have chosen to hire a professional photographer to conduct a session that includes someone holding a portrait of the deceased. It can be done as a family or individual portrait. This appeals to western cultural sensibilities and yet includes the person in the portrait. These can be formal or informal. You could go to a studio or have it done in your home or some other intimate space. Or, try what I do, do it yourself...
- Companies that take photos and create paintings from them often do what is called "composite painting". Artists can add to or subtract from the original photos you supply to create one beautiful oil painting. They routinely paint family portraits with an additional person- so as far as composite paintings go, the only limit is your imagination.
- Collage work is a mainstay of expressive arts and a great way to combine any constellation of people in your life into a cohesive visual statement. Since many of us have digital pictures, you can easily print your photos to create a 2D collage or work online to make a digital collage. If you are going from prints, you can scan your photos in (services are available at most print and copy stores) and work with paper or digital mediums. You can print with archival inks or, when the work fades - reprint the piece. The process of doing this creative work can be very therapeutic and can be done numerous times for multiple evocative outcomes.
Pro-Active Photography from This Day Forward
We all learn lessons as we go in this life. Once you lose something you are forever changed. What can we learn from loss and photography?
First, everyone should consider the importance of online hosting and another method of backing-up precious photos. For my most precious photos I have a small hard drive in my document firebox and an online host that stores these photos as well.
Next, perhaps you can schedule a time every year to think about your photos and if you have covered important categories - did you get these pictures?
Here are some of my categories:
-- On the beach
-- In the park
-- On the couch
-- Doing their favorite activity
-- In the snow
-- In the workplace or classroom
-- In the city
-- All major events
-- Doing something that is their habit that you find endearing
-- Group photos with everyone (use that timer and tripod! or schedule photo sessions)
What ideas would you add to this list?
Third, if we accept that photography is indeed an interpretive art, then giving yourself freedom to take interpretive liberties that serve your grieving heart is more than permissible and part of the reclaiming process. Photography can be an important part of knitting your heart back together. You should feel free to use any method to help you on your healing journey.
If you have other ideas on what people can do to bolster their visual archive, please share them!