Bea Denton: A Memorial Portrait Photo Booth

01nov11:1512:45Bea Denton: A Memorial Portrait Photo Booth11:15 - 12:45(GMT+00:00) View in my timeEvent typeWorkshopTopicRemembranceSession ID: Workshop 2A


(Monday) 11:15 - 12:45(GMT+00:00) View in my time

Event Details

WORKSHOP: Bea Denton: A Memorial Portrait Photo Booth

In this participatory workshop, visual artist Bea Denton will present her evolving body of work, Songs of Lamentation. Following her talk, pre-booked participants are invited to collaborate in an online Memorial Photo Booth. Spaces are strictly limited, and advance booking is necessary. 

Before the Memorial Photo Booth, Denton will lead a moment of quiet reflection, prompting thoughts about (but not restricted to) – 

  • how we want to be remembered
  • is it important to be remembered?
  • is a photographic memorial able to capture the spirit of a person?
  • what is the legacy that we leave behind when we have died? 
  • what is the best time in our lives to be photographed for a memorial photograph – when we are old or young? 

In the Memorial Photo Booth, Bea will capture the portrait (a screen-grabbed head shot) of each participating individual. Participants are asked to sit in front of a plain neutral background for best results. After the event, she will apply to each image the alternate layers of process and techniques that have been used in the production of her work, Songs of Lamentation. Participants will each receive a new and unique printed portrait.


Susan Sontag claimed that photography is the inventory of mortality, and considered the photograph 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 in the mid-19th Century, it was often associated with communication with the dead – the belief that a photograph could capture one’s soul dates to the earliest days of photography. 

In many countries across the world, it is common practice to display a photographic memorial portrait of the deceased on their gravestone. The popularity of these memorial photographs coincided with advances in technology in the late 19th Century that enabled a photographic image to be adhered permanently to a ceramic surface. 

Although these memorial photographs may tell us that the person is dead, arguably they also serve to keep them alive. Over the last 5 years, Bea Denton has captured the portraits of hundreds of departed souls from gravestones in graveyards in Europe; Italy; France; Greece. She describes herself as a collector and archivist of anonymous lives, departed and reincarnated. Her pursuit is to find an essence in the image: the ‘soul’. 

In an examination of faith, death, grief, loss and ritual, she attempts to find meaning and dimension through the imprint of time, light and phenomena. In a circuitous process, each of the images she captures 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 results 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.

Bea Denton is a collaborator in the group of artists, Throes of Grief

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.