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Still:Life Exhibition at Ikon Gallery

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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A snapshot in time
Birmingham's John Taylor Hospice and Ikon Gallery are shining the spotlight on how we view end of life with a new exhibition.

Acclaimed Birmingham artist Stuart Whipps has been working with local families who have chosen to share their stories through a photographer's lens.

Now you can see the photographs and recordings at the LifeStill Exhibition at the Ikon Gallery.

The exhibition features the lives of people who chose John Taylor to care for them at home. Working with the Hospice's community teams, Stuart has visited people in their homes and workplaces to capture images of them in their chosen settings.

"This exhibition is not about a hospice, illness or cancer, it's about the people of Birmingham and the interesting lives they have led," says Stuart. "It has been about going to people's homes and speaking to them and finding different connections.

"A lot of what John Taylor does is about building trusting relationships, listening to people and finding out what they need and what is important to them.

"This has enabled me to respond and capture those conversations and connections and make these photographs. Sometimes that is in a place for them which carries importance or it may be with specific objects. It is a quiet way of representing people."

Hazel Read's husband Graham was cared for by John Taylor Hospice earlier this year and she wanted to be part of the project as a tribute to him.

"Following the initial diagnosis on January 8 2013 of stage 4 liver cancer that had spread to the bowels, we had barely nine weeks together before he died suddenly on March 15 aged 68. After 42 years of marriage, it was such a shock to lose him," says Hazel of Great Barr.

"Dealing with bereavement is difficult for families, friends and acquaintances. Often, people don't know what to do or say and so they don't feel comfortable mentioning the name of the deceased or talking about past times together.

"Yet, the hardest thing for families to feel is that their loved-one exists no more and has been forgotten by everyone. He/she is forever in their hearts and minds and therefore opportunities to share these thoughts are important.

"The LifeStill project promotes a celebration of the lives and personalities of people who are terminally ill or who have passed away. The photographs reflect aspects of people's characters and depict things that are dear to them, thus keeping memories alive."

Graham Read
Graham Read photographed against his lounge carpet

And Hazel, who is mum to Helen and grandmother to baby Evie, adds: "It encouraged people to talk about past events, look at photographs and experience the home environment. It has culminated in an exhibition that everyone can reflect upon and share, allowing us insight into the lives of the people in the photos."

The exhibition was inspired by 'Knight of the Camera' Sir Benjamin Stone, the Victorian photographer and Birmingham MP whose Photographic Archive will be part of the new Birmingham Library collections. Sir Benjamin, who catalogued the life of Victorian Birmingham in thousands of images, lived at the Grange in Grange Road, Birmingham, which is now the home of John Taylor Hospice.

John Taylor Hospice CEO Kate Phipps says: "LifeStill embraces the lives of local families. Stuart's work allows them to share their stories on their own terms with the people of Birmingham in a new and innovative way.

"Our society can be nervous of talking about end of life and dying. Now the people whose stories form part of the exhibition are helping all of us to open that conversation."

The exhibition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Hospice and Gallery which also included the one-day symposium Art and End of Life – A Conversation which took place at the Ikon in May.

Ikon Gallery head of learning Simon Taylor says: "This partnership continues to evolve and the dialogue between arts and healthcare professionals has been enlightening. Stuart Whipps has produced a new body of work and we are proud to be showcasing such a powerful combination of words and images at Ikon."

LifeStill is at the Ikon's Events Rooms until October 6 between 11am and 6pm and entry is free. A free family activity day takes place there on Saturday October 5 between 1-4pm.

For more see the and websites.

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Why? LifeStill highlights people being cared for by John Taylor Hospice and their families
When: Until 6 October
Phone: 0121 248 0708
Where: Ikon Gallery
Cost: Free
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