One of their joint projects has been the Life:Still exhibition which featured photographs of people cared for by the Hospice and was staged at the Ikon in 2013.
Acclaimed Birmingham artist Stuart Whipps worked with local families who chose to share their stories through a photographer’s lens.
And you can see the photographs and recordings of the Life:Still Exhibition at the Ikon Gallery on youtube
The exhibition featured the lives of people who chose John Taylor to care for them at home. Working with the Hospice’s community teams, Stuart 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 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.”
The exhibition harked back to ‘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 said: “Life:Still embraced the lives of local families. Stuart’s work allowed 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 has also included a one-day symposium Art and End of Life – A Conversation which took place at the Ikon in May 2013.
Ikon Gallery head of learning Simon Taylor said: “This partnership continues to evolve and the dialogue between arts and healthcare professionals has been enlightening. Stuart Whipps produced a new body of work and we were proud to showcase such a powerful combination of words and images at Ikon.”
Hazel Read’s husband Graham was cared for by John Taylor Hospice early in 2013 and she wanted to be part of the project to 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,” said Hazel of Great Barr.
“Throughout those difficult days, and also after the funeral, support and guidance was offered by members of John Taylor Hospice. It was a comfort to know that there was always somebody there to help in times of trouble.
“The Life:Still project provided an extension of that support. It promoted 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, who was originally from South Wales, worked as a primary school teacher in Sandwell. Graham was a collector and frequently brought home stones whose shapes he liked. Stuart photographed Hazel holding some of those stones.
“He was a man with a big heart, who never spoke ill of other people and always brought a smile to everybody’s faces. He enjoyed teaching others and loved animals. Although he loved to travel, he was at his happiest when he was at home with his family.
“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 Life:Still project encouraged people to talk about past events, look at photographs and experience the home environment. It culminated in an exhibition that everyone can reflect upon and share, allowing us insight into the lives of the people in the photos.”
Kathleen Rock was keen to be part of the project to help spread the word. When she saw the final pictures she knew exactly which one she wanted included.
“There is one which is me holding a picture of me when I was younger,” said Kathleen who has been supported in her Birmingham home by John Taylor Hospice’s community teams and our partners at Bridges Cancer Support. “I was about 20 then and I had long hair which I lost when I had the chemotherapy.
“I was shocked when I saw the picture because there is such a difference between me then and me now. I just hadn’t seen how much I had changed.”
Kathleen, aged 55, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2011. She has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy but has been told her condition is palliative.
“I wanted that picture put in a gallery so people see it and it makes them go and get tested for anything that may be wrong with them,” she said. “If they get tested and the cancer is found early enough it can make a difference. If that photo just makes a difference to one person then it is worth it.”
The Life:Still exhibition was visited by people from across the city and beyond and has been posted to the internet so that people are still able to see it.
For more information about John Taylor Hospice click on www.johntaylorhospice.co.uk or contact the Hospice’s Community Investment Crew on 0121 465 2000.