Organisers Gentle Dusk ran the competition in conjunction with Age UK, with funding from Islington Council as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week. The weeklong event is arranged by Hospice UK to take place annually in May, and invites people aged 16-19 living, studying or working in Islington to participate. A number of City and Islington College students made winning entries, preparing photographs inspired by the theme of death.
Amel Boukabous, Level 3 Health and Social Care student at the Centre for Health, Social Care and Childcare, won the People’s Choice award for the photograph that proved the most popular with the public. She told us: “Usually I’m good at generating ideas, but at the beginning I was struggling with the concept. I decided to focus on the human senses as they can be the last things we use before death. Small things like holding hands can be a lasting memory for many, especially those unable to use their other senses.
“My grandfather was leaving for Bangladesh at the beginning of May. He is old and has early stages of dementia. I don’t know when I’ll see him next because life is unpredictable. I asked him and my mum to hold hands so I could capture the sense touch; I wanted to display old and young together.
“Photography has allowed me to freeze moments in time; this allows me to look back and remember the good times, you can’t relive a moment the exact same way, but photos can hold more significant meaning. I’ve been doing photography for about five years now; I started when I lived abroad in Egypt. The country is so diverse in everything — the religions, cultures, scenery and lifestyles. I wanted to capture it all, as well as the memories of my friends I made.”
Several students picked up awards for their submissions, including Merlin Bernardini, 18, winner of the Judge’s Vote in the Young Photographer category: “Death has always been a touchy subject and it bring about emotions when talking about it. Taking part in this project, I became more confident in myself and talking about death.”
Centre Director for the Centre for Business, Arts and Technology Nick Day attended the event, closing the awards ceremony with a frank speech on the importance of talking about death: “I would like to thank Gentle Dusk and Age Concern UK for the wonderful opportunity that this project has given to our students. These are very challenging images dealing with a powerful topic – death. This project is vital, because death is the destination for all of us eventually.
“There’s a key idea in Buddhism that you really need to understand death in order to know how to live. It’s really important, I think, that as young people we can think about it, but also think about it positively. Death is, in its own way, a rite of passage, and something we all ought to consider.”
Dying Matters Awareness Week ran from 13 – 19 May and saw contributions from individuals and organisations all over the UK.