Death Cafe meetings are organised by volunteers who arrange meetings for people, often strangers to each other, to meet at a local café where they can eat cake, drink tea and chat about death in an informal manner with the topics determined by attendees.
According to the Death Café website there have been 9,006 Death Café meetings in 65 countries since September 2011. The Death Café model was developed by the late Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz.
The illustration portrait above is of Sam-Solicitor, Sarah-Funeral Director & Ruth-Priest who recently held a Death Café meeting in Fleet, Hampshire and who are planning to hold a new meeting next Spring.
Behind The Scenes
It was deemed too sensitive to have a journalist & photographer present at their first meeting, which was understandable. Kindly Sam, Sarah & Ruth agreed to be interviewed and photographed a few weeks later.
As a photographer my problem was how was I going to illustrate a Death Cafe meeting that had already happened? And to take a group portrait in a solicitors office. As always the answer was to let the journalist do the interview first allowing me some 30 minutes to walk around to find somewhere – if the available conditions are bad a well lit portrait taken against a suitable background will always work.
Having sat in on the first 5 minutes of the interview I noticed that there was a reflection in the glass table that I thought might work but the room was far to small – I left the room and walked around the nearby streets and found 2 possible locations that could work.
I went back to the offices and asked the receptionist if there were any other rooms available and she replied that the boardroom was not in use. I walked into the boardroom and it was just a normal boring office, walking around the long table I suddenly noticed that a window was agin also reflected in the black glass table. Perfect!
I set-up 2 remote Profoto B10’s for fill in flash against the harsh window light and by holding the camera flush on the table I was able (just) to obtain a symmetrical reflection of the window. The shape of the window I felt gave the image a church feeling and together with the mellow lighting & serious pose I felt it worked well as an illustration.