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Poignant photos for people's lives

Tue, 28/05/2024 - 12:40

Adam from AJM Photography, shares a recent story about how the work that Banks Mill creatives do can have a positive impact on the people they meet through the unique services that they provide. 


Do we appreciate how we might affect people’s lives? 

It’s surprising what can come out of a chance meeting.  If you recall, at Banks Mill’s 2023 Open Studios weekend, Jo and I opened Studio 2.6 both as a photography studio and as a pop-up coffee and cake shop.  Jonathan Bird, a 57 year old gentleman with autism and dyslexia came in with Carol, his mum and Max, his stepdad to take advantage of a few minutes sitting and enjoyed coffee and cakes.  

Whilst drinking, Jonathan started asking about what I did.  I talked a bit about the photography and he was fascinated to learn more. I chatted, on and off with Jonathan, Carol and Max for the next 20 minutes or so and they came to leave. Jonathan piped up having decided he wanted some photographs taken.  They bought a voucher and settled on a date of Sunday 14th January when they would come along and get his photographs done.  

Unfortunately, Jonathan’s condition made it impossible for them to come of that day – clearly Carol was flustered and frustrated by the whole situation, and I told her to come back to me in a few days when things had calmed down.  We duly sorted out a new date of 4th February when all three came in and had a nice set of photographs taken. I sent across the proofs for Jonathan to choose the two included as part of the voucher offer and eventually, they settled on two particular ones which I edited and sent across for their final approval. I heard nothing back which didn’t surprise me too much, but eventually got those two printed, ready for me to deliver. By now, we are into early May and out of the blue on May 4th – an ironic date as you will understand shortly - I got an email from Carol asking me to go ahead with the prints (which I already had available.) She also told me that Jonathan had passed away on the previous Friday.  In a bit of a state of shock I replied to Carol, describing my view of Jonathan as a ‘Gentle Giant’.   

A few days later I delivered the photographs to her – she was delighted with them in a reflective sort of way. Having chosen two, Carol asked for a third to be provided – it showed Jonanthan in what he had described as his Winston Churchill pose – I think you can see the resemblance! 

Carol also asked for a print to be included to ‘send him on his way’ so I provided an extra copy of his portrait image. 

Today, I went to Jonathan’s funeral – Carol warned me that it would be different and asked that I wear something red – no black suits and ties! Well, I hadn’t appreciated quite how different – the funeral attendants all came into Alvaston Parish Church dressed as Star Wars characters – we had Darth Vader, Storm Troopers, Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jonathan’s coffin was a work of art in itself and could easily have been decorated by one of the creatives from the Banks Mill community; decorated with various pictures depicting Star Wars. 

I felt privileged that Carol had chosen my photograph of Jonathan, Carol and Max to include on the funeral Order of Service.  In her eulogy she made reference to my ‘gentle giant’ description of him and described my words to her as the ‘balm’ that she needed for comfort.  Throughout the service Jonathan was looking out over the congregation – his portrait carefully placed on his coffin.  

We often take for granted our skills as creatives and curse the bills coming along that still need to be paid, but maybe every so often we need to take a step back and understand that our work is appreciated, but maybe not in the ways that we had anticipated. I only met Jonathan twice, but I feel blessed that in some little way I have helped his memory to be recorded and respected.  


Jonathan Mark Bird 

10th November 1965 – 26th April 2024 

Rest in Peace 

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