Keeping His Memory

Sep 28, 2023

Jesse Andreawartha

Vancouver, BC, Canada

This image was taken as part of a postmortem session, photographing the tattoos of a veteran head obtained during the Second World War while part of the Merchant Navy. With his daughter's permission, I captured a portion of the session using Kodak Aerochrome 1443 Color Infrared film. As I was photographing the tattoos, she began filming his body with a Bolex 16mm camera and I stepped back to capture the moment.

I had been asked by a friend if I would be willing to photograph her recently deceased father. She wanted to memorialize him, to keep hold of these images and most importantly, document the tattoos on his skin that represented such an important part of his life. As a culture we’ve lost our connection to death; postmortem photographs were once important memorials that helped in the grieving process, offered comfort and were often the only visual remembrance of the deceased, becoming prized family possessions. It no longer is seen as a vital remembrance and such portraits all but stopped in the early 20th century. This photograph is meant to help the intended audience, the general population, renew that connection. It was an honour to be asked to perform such a personal and deeply intimate photo session.

Bronica GS-1, 50mm f4.5 lens, Kodak Aerochrome 1443 colour infrared film.