november, 2021

02nov09:1509:45B Denton: A Memorial Portrait Photo Booth09:15 - 09:45 Studio 3Event type:PresentationTopic:Remembrance


(Tuesday) 09:15 - 09:45


Studio 3

Event Details

Bea Denton: A Memorial Portrait Photo Booth

Susan Sontag claimed that photography is the inventory of mortality. She considers the photograph as an invention of memory rather than an instrument or a replacement. Roland Barthes argues that photographs have been inherently linked with mortality since the invention of the camera, and suggests a paradox of presence/absence that occurs within photographs of those who are now absent, i.e. dead. At the time of photography’s emergence, it was often associated with communication with the dead – the belief that a photograph could capture one’s soul dates back to the earliest days of photography. In many countries, particularly predominantly Catholic countries, it is common practice to display a photographic memorial portrait of the deceased on their gravestone. Although these photographs may tell us that the person is dead, arguably they also serve to keep them alive. Over the last 5 years, I have captured the portraits of hundreds of departed souls from gravestones in graveyards in Europe; Italy; France; Greece. As an artist, I describe myself as a collector and archivist of anonymous lives, departed and reincarnated. My pursuit is to find an essence in the image: the ’soul’. In an examination of faith and death, I attempt to find meaning and dimension through the imprint of time, light and phenomena. In a circuitous process, each of the images is taken through a process of transformation, from the found photographic portrait through alternate layers of photography and projection. Projected images are again recaptured from the lens of a Camera Obscura, and from there back to photography and finally to prints, some as decals fired into wafer-thin porcelain discs, reminiscent of Communion Hosts, and others as gravure etchings. There is a dependence on light to penetrate and interpret the soul of the subject portrayed. The construction and merging of new layers result in mysterious dislocated images that somehow float one-step removed from the surface. If the camera is a tool for revelation, the essence of the images has been penetrated, interrogated and excavated to the very core of their being. The images challenge a traditional idea of photography as simply a faithful record of reality, and instead explore the nature of perception, memory and the act of remembering associated with death and grief. In a multitudinous catalogue, they expose the viewer to a visual reminder of our fleeting corporeal existence on earth, the magnitude of eternity and the unimaginable inevitability of death and loss. For Borrowed Time, I propose an interaction inspired by my work, in which participants are invited to be photographed in a Memorial Portrait Photobooth. A conversation would follow a presentation of my work, with the aim of prompting reflection and ideas about what it is to be remembered; what is the optimum age to have the memorial portrait taken; whether the photograph is an adequate medium to describe the subject, and to capture the soul. Each participant will be sent a digital image of their portrait after the event.

Speakers for this event

  • Bea Denton

    Bea Denton

    I am an artist for whom photography and printmaking are intrinsic parts of the creative process. Pushing the boundaries of the technical and physical limitations of photography, my work aims to transcend photography’s realist conventions to achieve a deeper resonance. I am perpetually interested in ritual and faith systems, and my Catholic upbringing has had a profound influence in my investigations into the soul and afterlife.



    • Day 1
    • 31/10/2021
    • 16.00 Opening day events16.00 - 21.00Opening day events including keynotesSpeakers: Bayo Akomolafe, Beatrice Allegranti