Two women from Leeds have launched a project that focuses on how people use creativity to help channel their grief.
‘Projecting Grief’ is the creation of photographer Jo Ritchie and writer Faye Dawson. They have been gathering the portraits and stories of people who have created a piece of work for which grief was the catalyst and are seeking more contributors.
The idea was formed following the death of Jo’s younger brother Jack.
“My brother took his life in November 2017 age 24,” says Jo.
“Until that point, I had not really had to face real grief, and for a long time it was completely overwhelming.”
Jo felt the need to connect with people in similar situations and was fascinated – and uplifted – to discover how many people channel their grief through creativity.
“Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was pick up my camera and attempt to be creative, so I was intrigued to meet people whose grief was the catalyst of a creation.”
In 2019 she focussed on finding those that had used a creative skill as a distraction, a relief, or an expression and began taking their portraits.
“It was great to make contact with strangers and learn of their stories,” she continues. “It soon became clear that the portraits required context, so I set out to find an interviewer and writer to create the narrative.”
She teamed up with Communications Consultant Faye Dawson whose own grief had taken her down another path.
Faye had two miscarriages in the space of nine months and says she did not understand her grief.
“I thought ‘how can you grieve for someone you never met, never knew?’ There were people suffering far worse than me.”
She decided to not try again, but it left her thinking about not continuing her family’s genes.
“I’m a stepparent and a stepchild and I started to ask myself why a genetic connection is so important to so many? Is it not also about those whose lives you have touched? Your influence, who you have been as a person?”
She started to explore this by writing about her own family who she describes as ‘blended and bonkers’.
“I decided to leave my full-time job and set up as a freelancer with the idea of giving myself more time to write, and in 2017 I set up my own Communications Consultancy.”
Faye and Jo started working together in March this year and have captured and written several portraits and stories including that of comedian Luisa Omielan [‘What Would Beyonce Do?’ ‘Politics for Bitches’], and Leeds actor Luke Dickson [‘Damned United’, ‘Mother Courage’ ‘The Great Dixoni’].
They have spoken to cooks, authors, musicians, and exhibition makers and are looking for more people to contribute.
“Grief has no prejudice,” Jo concludes. “We want a wide range of voices and any creative process is valid - from cooking to sewing, dance to pottery, music to writing; anything that has/is helping you deal with the grieving process that you’re happy to talk about.”
“We believe this project to be not only beneficial to those who have lost, but also to the arts as an industry and an entity because creativity touches all our lives.”
If you want to take part in the project email firstname.lastname@example.org
To see the story so far visit www.projectinggrief.com
Find us on Instagram @projectinggrief