For Grief: A photographic social documentary of funeral directors and their experiences

Yoko Lance, Queensland College of Art Part of CW15

In many developed countries, death and funerals are often considered a taboo subject which people avoid talking about. “Death” and “dead” are often rephrased as “loss”, “gone” or “passed away”, and “the deceased” or “remains” are used instead of “dead body” and “corpse”. The concept of death is carefully sanitised in our society and we often deny death. This denial can lead to stigmatisation of people who work in the funeral industry because they handle dead bodies and appear to profit from death and grief. Utilising digital still-photography and video interviews, a qualitative photographic field study was conducted with three funeral directors in Queensland, Australia in 2013. The project undertook an investigation of their work and private time to determine whether funeral directors are stigmatised in today’s sanitised society. The research showed that the funeral directors have experienced stigmatisation directly related to their occupation, however this stigma has waned as their role in the industry becomes established. The project revealed that over time, this stigma becomes less concerning to Funeral Directors who instead focus on the process of burial and funerary arrangements. Interviews with Funeral Directors reveal rarely discussed side-effects of dealing with their own grief affected by depressing facts of death.