Honouring the End
Alessia Arcuri and Chrissy Le Roux discuss Chrissy’s latest project ‘Honouring the End’. A collection of portraits depicting those working as nurses, carers and support staff, specifically in the so-called ‘end-of-life’ and ‘palliative’ care sector.
Fascinated by her personal story and subsequent motivations, we talked about her latest project ‘Honouring the End’. A photojournalist project that focuses on the people who do “not always feel appreciated, despite standing alongside families and patients through some of the most final, pivotal moments of their lives”.
However, my plan for this project is for it to grow, so I made a point to reach out online. I just wanted to start a conversation with as many people as I could and as it turns out they were very willing to convey the truth behind End-of-Life and Palliative care work. In hindsight, the time I spent listening to them was the most crucial aspect of shooting this project. The very honest and sometimes brutal truth from them inspired me to photograph them individually and in their own homes. While photographing them, much of the time spent shooting was finding out more about their individual experiences and how I could incorporate that into the final images. It was something I loved doing because every portrait felt like it had its own story.
CLR The biggest challenge has and always will be establishing contact. Although people were very willing to chat with me and take time out of their days off to organise a shoot, I had to accept that many of these people work unsociable hours. Not only was this the case but I had to be sensitive to the emotional impact a job like this can have on one individual. So, I often left it to each person to contact me as and when they could. I wanted them to feel as though they were in control of this process as there is so much beyond their control at work. Then you add the pandemic into it, it felt almost impossible. Although I speak with people about their work, we are still enduring this period. Not only are these workers going through their own emotional stress of the pandemic, their jobs and livelihoods, protecting their own family, but the increase in vulnerable people and deaths are also at an all-time high - it is a time for these workers to be the most cautious and the most focused they have ever been. Although shooting has had to come to a pause, I can be grateful that I am still able to connect with people online.
“I wanted to create work that started to acknowledge how important this role is, as well as giving me an opportunity to highlight some of the workers I had met along the way and others who continue to do this underestimated job.”
It’s been eye-opening to hear the perspectives and truths of those around me, especially about a subject that although we may not all feel comfortable discussing, it is a subject that will touch every one of us at some point in our lives. It has also helped me understand the importance of the End-of-Life and Palliative care sectors and how grateful I am that there are individuals who step up to these roles. It feels even more important to highlight these key workers at a time where they are so relevant and most of all important.
AA What are you working on at the moment? Are you planning on continuing to shoot ‘Honouring the End’?
CLR Other than continuing to photograph my loved ones, I would love to keep working on Honouring the End. Although my usual processes have had to adapt, it is exciting to see how much we are talking about the healthcare sector. I can only hope that the growing interest in carers, nurses and doctors who are on the front line at the moment will enable this project to grow. I know that many workers deserve to be seen and heard.
I hope the appreciation around this kind of work is one that will last beyond the pandemic and I hope that I can continue to photograph these people who choose to be present and attentive, and who honour the most vulnerable moments of our lives.
AA Did any of the personal accounts from subject carers stand out, do you think it is particularly important to hear from nurses, carers and support staff during the trying times in which we’re currently living?
CLR I believe that every person was different but there certainly were common themes within their personal accounts. I believe that many of the workers often felt underappreciated and overworked. I don’t think there is always an understanding of how mentally and emotionally draining it can be to work with people who have long-term illnesses or those who are dying. I think it is even more relevant now. It will be interesting to see how the pandemic has changed their working dynamics - and how this has affected their positions within their roles. Most importantly, I want to know how this has affected them. I think this is a perspective I have always been interested in and one that should be heard, especially as we are still going through such turbulent times.
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Alessia Arcuri (Italy, 1991) is a curator and bookseller specialised in Arts and Photography. In her practice, Alessia explores her passion for visual communication and literature.
Christine Le Roux (South Africa, 1995) is a Documentary Photographer whose work often reflects real-life themes and concepts in order to highlight intimate narratives. Chrissy has a keen interest in the process of creating and viewing work that instigates honest, psychological and sociological discussion. (christine_le.roux)