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7 Photographers Using Their Cameras to Navigate Grief


© Erik Simander

Argus Paul Estabrook documents his father’s battle with pancreatic cancer. Erik Simander captures his grandfather’s grief after losing his wife. Jackie Dives creates double exposures in her father’s memory. In different ways, these seven photographers navigate the uncharted waters of mourning, tracing stories of love and loss.

© James Friedman

One Son’s Photos of the Life and Death of His Mother

When Dorothy Friedman was sick, her son, the photographer James Friedman, visited her. Over the last eight months of her life, he saw her every single day, either in the nursing home or in the hospital. As she always had, since he was just a young kid with a camera, she allowed him to take her picture.

© Argus Paul Estabrook

The Death of a Parent, Captured in Photos

The photographer Argus Paul Estabrook remembers his mother calling him from the hospital, and he remembers flying from Seoul to be with his family in the United States. But much of his father’s battle with pancreatic cancer remains a blur. By the time he was diagnosed, it had already reached Stage 4, and when it was all said and done, Estabrook‘s father would live for only three more weeks. This Is Not an Exit is one artist’s recounting of his father’s illness and its aftermath.

© Karen Khachaturov

One Man Photographs His Grandfather’s Battle with Cancer

Gary became his grandson Karen Khachaturov’s muse the day he learned had bladder cancer. “He was diagnosed in 2017,” the Armenian photographer remembers. “It was pretty shocking for everyone.” Over the span of a month, the two of them worked together to create a series of playful and uncanny images, with Gary in the starring role. Despite the shock, or perhaps because of it, Khachaturov and his grandfather immersed themselves in a candy-coated dreamworld of their own creation.

© Andrew A. Amundsen

Bittersweet Photos by a Man Grieving His Partner’s Death

The photographer Andrew A. Amundsen moved to his attic loft apartment abruptly after the death of his girlfriend and muse, a woman named Laurie with whom he had shared twelve years. In the days following, he turned to his immediate surroundings, peering out the window skylights of his new home and taking pictures of what he saw. 

© Jackie Dives

After Her Father’s Death, a Photographer Explores Grief

Following her father’s passing, the photographer Jackie Dives started making double exposures on film–mirroring her experience with grief and the fracturing effect it had on her everyday life. “Creating double exposures was the perfect way to express my confused, messy, contradicting, and fraught feelings,” Dives explains.

© Erik Simander

One Grandson’s Poetic Photos of His Widowed Grandfather

The photographer Erik Simander helped take care of his grandfather in the wake of his grandmother’s death: he attended doctor’s appointments and made sure he had a coat to keep him warm in the bitter Swedish winter. He also photographed Harald, with his permission, as he went about daily life, on his own for the first time in decades.

Harald died about thirteen months after Hjordis did. The pictures Simander made during that time are a testament to their love and to his grief, but they’ve also become a way for a grandson to hold on to pieces of his grandfather now that he’s gone. “I can look at the photographs knowing what a great man he was,” the artist says.

© Jennifer Loeber

Using Instagram to Cope with Grief, a Photographer Creates a Poignant Tribute to Her Mother’s Life

Left Behind is a beautiful still life and archival photo series by photographer Jennifer Loeber that touches on memory, love, loss, and grief. After her mother’s sudden passing, “I found myself deeply overwhelmed by the need to keep even the most mundane of my Mom’s belongings,” Loeber says. Through photography, she was eventually able to find emotional release. 

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