[mpc_vc_quote quote=”It is crucial to be mindful of death — to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life. If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained. It is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished.

Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime during which you can perform many important practices. Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice. In this way contemplation of death will bring more energy to your practice. ” author=”Dalai Lama”]

On June 26, 2006 my mother, Celina Carlota Da Rosa Mateus, lost her life to a short and fierce struggle against Breast Cancer.

I wrote about my mother and her influence on my photography last year and you can read that post here.  This post is much different to that one, as this post marks the 10 year anniversary of her death by honouring her through a creative collaboration between myself, Floral Designer Michelle Hodgson and fellow Photographer Kat Timmins. You can read more about our process and how this shoot came to be on my behind the scenes post here.

Michelle had contacted me about doing another collaboration and below is what was born of that. I spend my time photographing important moments for others, often celebrating love. This night I celebrated my love for my mother. I came together with two other amazing women whose talents I am lucky to have been touched by, together pushing ourselves into an area we had yet to explore through our art: honouring the dead. Many of the photos here I took with my new camera, (first time using it in fact, which is neat as I bought my very first dslr 10 years ago when my mom first died) and my 35 mm lens with the help of Kat’s trigger and Michelle’s finger. While I tried to use only photos I took there are also some great photos in the collection taken by Kat (thanks Kat!).

Death is not something we talk much about, but once you are touched by it you can’t escape it. As Benjamin Franklin said: ” In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” so I wonder why we don’t talk about death much? Are we scared of our own mortality? Are we worried that in talking about and planning for death that it will come knocking on our doors faster? It’s not like I love talking about it, but I feel it is important and I rather be open about it then scared when my time comes, as my mother was. Watching someone die is awful, especially when it’s your parent. Looking back on it now I am glad I was there with her through all of this, I am glad I could hold her hand and kiss her forehead before she fell asleep. I am glad I could wipe her dry lips with water as she could not do this her self, and I am glad I was able to honour her life with the type of funeral she wanted, surrounded by her loved ones, friends, family and community. It was hard, and still those memories haunt me, but I made it through and I did it all for her.

My mother passed 10 years ago today and I am sharing this with the world to to celebrate her life and honour her past. On the evening of our shoot I experienced what it felt like to be behind the camera in a vulnerable state through the practice of self portraiture. I faced my fear of looking at my mothers ashes and letting go of them. I celebrated her through the beauty of Michelle’s floral creations amongst some of my mother’s small personal belongings and the sweet smell of fennel which I spread along the beach; the ocean and fennel being both two scents that remind me so much of her. I adorned myself in the pearls she bought me, a ring I bought her, and a pin from her younger years with her nick name: Lota. A few of her personal things were brought to the shoot as representations of little elements of her, one of which held so many deep memories for me, her head scarf that she wore all the time when cleaning (she was a clean-a-holic).

Grief takes time, we go through the motions in so many different ways. It hits us at odd times, it sneaks up on us even though we thought we had dealt with it and honestly it never really seems to go away for many of us. I also believe that everything happens when it should, and though I am full of sorrow everyday that my mother is not here with me, I know she is at peace after having suffered a difficult life. It took me a while to get to the point where I could sit and cry deeply about her passing, and I was often at a loss as to how to even honour her life in a way that was peaceful, beautiful while also reflecting on positive memories of her. I am extremely grateful that through this collaboration that I was able to do all this that evening and more. I shared stories with Michelle and Kat as the night went on, which was a lovely way to think back to some of the fond memories I cherish of her.

I know this session may be hard for some to view, but I hope it opens up a space for you to think of those you have lost. Perhaps even inspire you to find a way to let go of some your your pain through a creative process, much like I have been able to do here. My pain is not gone by any means, and this process has opened some wounds that I thought were sealed, but it has allowed to me to explore those pains in new ways, and express myself in a way I never knew how to do with words. I feel good knowing I have been able to spread some of my mothers ashes finally, that I had a chance to sit peacefully holding bits of her in a way that allowed me to feel so connected to her. I also feel lucky that I was able to do this all in a space so beautiful with two other creative souls who wiped my tears, held my camera and got soaking wet with me, honouring a woman they never met before.

If my mother is looking down on us I am sure she will be overjoyed and touched by what we have co-created here in her honour. Then I am sure she would have told us to dry off and come inside for a nice warm meal as she was an amazing cook!

Michelle & Kat, thank you for being part of this for both me and my mother.  Much love & gratitude,

~michele x0

Behind the Scenes with Michelle & Kat | Barnet Marine Park
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