Over the course of a year (2005/06), I worked closely with a Christchurch firm of funeral directors and with families who had recently lost loved ones. The exhibition seeks to demystify a world that is often left to the imagination. The series of black and white photographs focus on the journey of the body from the time of death to burial or cremation. It’s not a linear narrative in the traditional sense but rather it is made up of multiple narratives covering a range of cultural experiences. My aim was not to be sensational or gratuitous; photography has played a central role in memorialising the dead since its invention.
I had a very personal motivation for wanting to go behind the scenes of a funeral home. I lost my mother at the age of seven. It was 1970.
The adults took charge and we weren’t included in the funeral. It’s an experience I’ve carried with me into adulthood. I’ve always wanted to know what her journey would have been and to say goodbye myself.
Bridgit Anderson was born in Christchurch and studied photography at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. In 1985 she left for England where she taught in a series of London art schools, eventually returning to lecture at Ilam in 2004. Since then she has been a key figure in Place in Time: the Christchurch Documentary Project.
Anderson’s contributions to Place in Time include Caring for the dead (2005-06), in which she spent a year working closely with a Christchurch firm of funeral directors and with families who had recently been bereaved; and more recently a collaborative project to document the post-earthquake lives of residents in the suburb of Avonside culminating in Thx 4 the Memories, which was exhibited as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival 2013.
She has also created a photo-essay, Shigeru Ban: Cardboard Cathedral (2013), about the construction of the Christchurch landmark. Other projects include documenting the installation of Neil Dawson’s sculpture FANFARE for the publication by SCAPE Public Art FANFARE (2015) and a commission to create photographic portraits for the IHC touring exhibition Take a Moment With Us.
Anderson is currently the manager of Place in Time, responsible for its exhibition and education programme. She specialises in human-interest stories and related educational projects. Her work has been widely published and exhibited throughout New Zealand and internationally and examples of her work are held in the National Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.