A Record of Her Existence

As a photographer and as a former soldier I have seen my fair share of grief and suffering around the world.

And with all of these events that bring this grief to those either directly involved or to those on the periphery all are affected to some degree or another. During my career I have witnessed first hand the suffering of families torn apart by ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. I’ve seen the hatred in the eyes of those that I patrolled past on the streets of towns in South Armagh in Northern Ireland. I’ve seen Kosovar families huddled together, sheltering from rain under plastic sheeting waiting for food aid and hope to arrive from an indifferent West as the political chess game took place around them.

I have seen the effects of artillery fire missions. Fire missions that I called in and watched land amongst Iraqi soldiers and insurgents fighting against us in the abandoned compounds and dirty streets of Basrah in Iraq. I know what happens to a car, and its occupants, when it is driven towards us at speed and is met with a hail of bullets to bring it to a shuddering, bloody halt. I have felt the fear, the adrenalin and the ‘buzz’ of being in a firefight with an enemy – and the relief when you realise you’ve come through it unscathed and made a good account of yourself in that situation!

I’ve also looked into the eyes of those who have lost their sons or daughters in some shitty part of Iraq or Afghanistan. In places that nobody, but them, will ever remember and seen their grief.

But I’ve also seen the tears of happiness running down the cheeks of an old man as he held his grandson aloft, full of joy after we had cleared Serb soldiers from his village allowing him to return in safety. I remember the hundreds of flowers thrown onto my armoured vehicle and covering completely the dust and the camouflage by people from Podujevo in north eastern Kosovo as we drove into their village. I remember the glance and the simple nod of appreciation from a woman in a hardline Catholic area as I helped lift her pram up a steep curb as I patrolled past her. I can remember the Iraqi man who shook our hands as we passed his home and offered us a glass of Lemonade. I can remember many things.

The events and experiences we have during our lives make us who we are and shape us into the people we become. As a photographer I have witnessed some of these events. Whether great moments on the world stage or small and seemingly insignificant events that touch only those directly involved all should be documented. And though at times this may be difficult due to the nature of some of these events and whilst they may have a direct impact on us individually it is still important to make a visual record of them. It makes it real. It shows people that they happened. It makes people care. Because if we don’t care……..who will?

Last week my daughter was born very prematurely and sadly only lived for a few brief minutes before she died. Lying peacefully in the arms of my partner, Sara, as I stood and held them both as her heart slowly stopped. The following day we spent some time with her. We said our goodbyes. We hugged. We had a cry. It was a brief relationship, far too brief of course, but it is one that will be with us forever.

These were the hardest pictures I have taken. Yet they are the ones that bring me most comfort and as I looked through the small glass window of my Leica, adjusting my exposure and fine tuning the focus the normal ‘barrier’ that the camera can sometimes provide had gone. It was raw. It was emotion. It was real.

My reason for this post is not to shock. It isn’t to be morose or to sink into an abyss of sadness and sorrow. It is to record that she was here. To document. To record that she lived.

It is a record of her existence.

We called her Rose.

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11 thoughts on “A Record of Her Existence

  1. Dear Ian and Sara, I am heart broken for you both and only wish I had your skills of expression to share how impressed and overwhelmed I am by the way you have honoured your precious daughter and the profound impact she has had on your world. Awestruck. x

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  2. It is humbling to read your words and share your images of you,your partner & your beautiful Rose,her life may have been short but none the less important. However long anyones life is, it is still their whole life.She will always be your daughter.

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  3. A fitting and beautiful tribute to make sense of the unexplainable . However short Roses time she was beautiful and your photographs show the love that will always be there.
    Thank you for sharing this my love and admiration for you both
    Heather

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  4. Ian and Sara, words cant express what you are going through. Your tribute to Rose is so touching, im sheading a tear now. My thoughts are with you both. You may have only have had minutes with each other but your memories will last forever. All my love Amanda x

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  5. Sara and Ian I think you have had more to endure in your time together than others have to in a life time. You are both amazing people who will find the strength to get through this. Rose will live in your hearts forever. This tribute is lovely. Thanks for sharing it with us. We are thinking of you Helen & Les x

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  6. The most beautiful and emotional words I have ever read. Your words truly brought me to tears. I cannot even begin to imagine what you are both going through. you are right that words and images make experiences real. Someone once told me ‘we are only given things (good and bad) because we have the strength to get through them’. Love to you both, Katie and Ben (wood)xx

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    1. Thanks to everyone who have read the post and to those that have commented. Your comments and thoughts are very much appreciated during what has been a difficult time.
      Best regards,
      Ian & Sara

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  7. A very moving piece. Shedding tears for your agonising loss and praying that your love will give you both the strength you need. Be blessed.

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