Art Inspired by Grief: Photo Essay Edition

Creative Coping / Creative Coping : Eleanor Haley

For further articles on these topics:

You know, just once I’d like to do something meaningful in life and not have it tie back to my mother.  Why?  I don’t know, just because.   Sometimes I worry my family, friends, and regular readers at WYG are going to wonder why I’m so darn STUCK, but I assure you I do not walk around giving griefy Hamlet-esque monologues on a regular basis.  It's just a topic that tends to come up a lot because I write a grief blog and I draw on my personal experiences – duh.

I say all this because I just finished a photo project for a college art gallery, an opportunity that I mostly lucked into.  The project was really just a culmination of photos I’ve been taking of my girls over the past year – one that seemingly had zilch to do with my mother... until I sit down to write an Artist Statement and BAM there it is, I find myself writing about grief again.

My husband says he’s going to buy the URL to counterbalance our house's emotional feng shui  (Uh oh, someone already owns it).  But he did get me to thinking: Does grief keep popping up because I'm predisposed to see it?  Perhaps, I could have just as easily left my mother out of the Artist Statement and written several paragraphs on the joys of motherhood and my desire to photograph it; but honestly, I would have only been telling half the story.

Creating art requires one to dig deep into the emotional undercurrent of their life and in my experience, part of what drives me to capture a moment in time is a memory of what I have lost.  There’s a lyric by the band ‘The Head and the Heart’ that goes:

10,000 weight in gold, never feels like treasure ‘til you lose it all. 

10,000 Weight in Gold, The Head and the Heart

Right, exactly.  I lost the treasure and now, when I see reminders of it in my own maternal life, I want to grab it.  So sue me, what can you do me?  My mother made me, molded me, and her memory meets me at all of life’s ups and downs.  She’s here, there, and everywhere.  I could go on all day.

Art inspired by grief is pretty common. Occasionally, its influence is obvious... Occasionally, it's more esoteric... Occasionally, it's unintentional... And occasionally, it's merely our projection.  Anyhow, for the two of you who aren’t already bored by me, here’s the link to the aforementioned Artist Statement and my full series 'Mother/Daughter Life' (I've also included a few photographs below).

Eleanor Haley Photography; my daughters
Eleanor Haley Photography; my daughter in the ocean
Eleanor Haley Photography; my daughter
road trip; Eleanor Haley Photography

And here are grief inspired photo projects by some real artists....

Kirsty Mitchell - Wonderland

Kirsty Mitchell - Wonderland


Elizabeth Fleming: Buried On Her 90th Birthday

Elizabeth Fleming: Buried On Her 90th Birthday

Samantha Appleton: Outpouring of Grief - A University and Community in Mourning (via Time)

Samantha Appleton: Outpouring of Grief - A University and Community in Mourning (via Time)

Have you seen or created a grief inspired work(s) of art?  Subscribe to receive our posts straight to your e-mail inbox.

We wrote a book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
real-life book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

Related Blog Posts

Related Blog Posts

See More

4 Comments on "Art Inspired by Grief: Photo Essay Edition"

Click here to leave a Comment
  1. Lauren  August 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm Reply

    This morning I was searching the web for conceptual imagery connected to the loss of children and happily stumbled upon the photography portion of your blog (I believe this is a blog, right?) Love it! As a fellow photographer, I’ve been familiar with remembrance photography for quite some time but recently I’ve been drawn toward creating conceptual images for mothers that breathe life into what it feels like to lose a child through miscarriage specifically. It’s a different sort of loss because more often than not there isn’t ever a baby to hold in your arms or kiss. There’s no funeral, no memorial, no tradition that gives room for the loss to pour out or be acknowledged beyond an awkward exchange in the grocery or salon. I’ve posted a link below to the first image I’ve created for a client that connects to this and I have a second shoot later this year for a large family that will incorporate a similar experience.

    Love what you’re doing. Keep up the great work!

    All good wishes,


    • Eleanor  August 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm Reply


      I love the photo you linked to here. I love that you’re doing this as well. When I received a small photography grant from the state I had thought I might do something like this to help people continue bonds with their loved ones, but I was intimidated by the need to actually find people interested in taking these sort of photographs. Instead I used some of the money to start our newest site PhotoGrief, which you should definitely check out if you are interested in remembrance photography. Feel free to submit if you’re ever so inspired and maybe in the future we could collaborate on an article about using photography to honor and recognize these types of losses.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Jolene Thibedeau Boyd  January 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm Reply

    Eleanor, thanks for this. I used to love writing poems. I used to love photography. Actually, I still do, but after my father had an accident last spring, and then died this past Nov (and Mom died 12 years ago), I feel like that spark that used to inspire me has been extinguished. I trust (hope) it will come back someday, because I have really been missing it… I just recently found your blog, but the references to photo projects around grieving have stirred something in me. So thank you for sharing your creativity, and that of others. Maybe that spark will rekindle soon, maybe even sooner than I thought, once I accept that grief can be an inspiration just as sure as it can be a damper. So…just thanks. 🙂

    • Eleanor  January 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm Reply


      I completely understand losing the spark. I haven’t picked up my camera in forever, I’m just hoping to feel the pull again soon. Let us know when the spark returns! I’d love to see the results.


Leave a Comment

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.