A Leicester lecturer is to show an international conference his ground-breaking work using photography to help bereaved children express their grief over the loss of a parent, sibling or other close relative.
The presentation is one of two Dr Mike Simmons, senior lecturer in photography at De Montfort University, will give to the International Conference on Phototherapy and Therapeutic Photography in June in Turku, Finland.
Dr Simmons will jointly present the Pictures from Life project designed to offer bereavement support to children aged from eight to 14 and their families in Lincolnshire. Also presenting will be his collaborator Tracy Wilson, the child bereavement co-ordinator for The Children's Fund Lincolnshire.
Mike and Tracy pioneered the Pictures from Life project, which received financial support from Arts Council England and was hosted by the United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust. It provides a framework for improving communication within the family, reducing isolation and promoting personal well-being. Each child constructed an image using objects and pictures with huge resonance for them.
He said: "By working with Tracy, a specialist social worker, we brought together clinical practice and the creative process, capitalising on the unique expertise of both disciplines. This has ultimately provided improved benefits for the children. Together with them we opened a dialogue within each family, showing how people grieve differently."
Mike, who first joined De Montfort University 12 years ago, said: "I'm very pleased to be taking our work to an international audience. It is an important event as it brings together two distinct areas; phototherapy, the use of photography by a trained mental health professional in a formal clinical therapeutic context, and therapeutic photography, where photography is used to explore personal experience outside of any formal clinical setting. Our work embraces the two subject areas."
Mike hopes the conference in Finland will provide important feedback and help further develop Pictures From Life. Mike says: "The next step will be to get an academic paper published and then seek funding for the development of Pictures From Life as a national and possibly an international initiative."
"Children's bereavement projects nationally are very sporadic, and this new initiative was the first of its kind in Lincolnshire."
Mike's other presentation in Finland will focus on his own creative practice centred on the impact grief has on the continuing lives of the living. It will include No One Home, a study based on the loss of his mother and the subsequent dismantling of the family home.
The conference will take place from 12 - 15 June. For more information please visit the website.