Honor Woodhall-Smith

Death is a part of living, but a fear of many

Honor Woodhall-Smith is a final year BA (Hons) Photography graduate, whose project focuses on understanding and portraying care homes.

Photography - BA (Hons)

GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR PROJECT

This is a self-initiated project and residency in my grandmothers care home, Ash Lodge, Smethwick. Understanding the importance of an ethical approach and nature of the workplace, I offer a broad and visually rich insight within Ash Lodge of staff and residents, all of whom are bonded by the natural course of life. It captures the ‘aesthetics of care’ whilst recording conversations with staff to share honest experiences working in palliative care, inviting the audience to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings towards care homes and the ageing and dying process.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS CONCEPT?

I have struggled with my relationship with my nan since she moved into Ash Lodge and wanted to change that. When visiting, I became inspired by the selflessness of the nurses and how wonderful the place felt to be in. I felt inspired to share this with people and change their opinions of care homes the way my opinion and outlook on them changed the more time I spent there. These people have their own lives and families and troubles but put all of that behind them for the benefit of others and I think that's really amazing.

WHAT PROCESSES HAVE YOU BEEN USING?

I spent 2-3 days a week at Ash Lodge Care Home, building relationships with staff and residents. I was given my own little office, and was able to set up conversations with nurses when they had a spare 5 minutes to chat. I got involved in activities and also acted as a fly on the wall at times to authentically document life at the care home. I used my camera to document, made my own personal diary entries of my experience, and recorded the stories of the nurses where they were happy for me to do so. For me, the bets part of the process was building connections with the people who took care of my grandmother and I am privelidged that they chose to share their stories with me.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR PROJECT?

I hope that people can try to have more conversations around death, illness, growing old and care homes. I believe there is a lot of stigma around those environments and I want to try and chnage that by shwocasing how wonderful care homes actually are. It isn't just somewhere people go to die, but it is a family where individuals are respected and their needs and desires are catered to by incredible staff. It is a happy, bright, fun environment where life is fulfilled and it shouldn't be feared. I hope people can begin to discuss these taboo topics and share their thoughts and feelings with one another.

HOW HAS YOUR COURSE HELPED YOU TO PREPARE FOR WORKING ON YOUR PROJECT?

Other the last 3 years of my degree, my confidence in myself and my work has grown massively. My technical skills have been enhanced, and I have always been pushed and encouraged to achieve my best. Being able to openly share work with tutors and peers has been key for developing my practice, and it would not be as good of a project without the support of those people. Also, the facilities available have aided me in creating the very best outcomes possible and again my skills have been improved hugely due to the help and support of my tutors who have always believed in me and pushed me to be the best I can be.