Harry Rose explores photography as a tool to process grief
Nine years after the death of his father, Harry travelled to Scotland with his boyfriend to grieve the loss he had yet to process.
- Ruby Boddington
- 10 August 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, like many others, photographer Harry Rose found himself with a lot of time for reflection. The past decade had been non-stop, what with graduating from university in 2014 and then going on to found Darwin Magazine, as well as launching multiple creative agencies like the British Journal of Photography’s successful content agency Studio 1854 and multiple creative startups. With so much going on, he had neglected to fully register and deal with an event that occurred while he was still studying: the death of his father, who passed away of prostate cancer in 2011. During the first lockdown of last year, as things ground to a halt, Harry realised just how “depressed and grief-struck I still was”.
Despite having been with his partner for almost three years at that point, they had never fully discussed Harry’s father, that period of his life or how he felt about it. “This was not because the support from his side wasn’t there but more due to the fact I had been in prolonged depression and state of grief. Opening up and talking about my father and his illness had become almost impossible,” Harry explains. “Often when you’re in a dark place for a sustained period of time, it almost becomes normal and natural, as if this is how everyone else lives and feels on the inside. Speaking with friends and realising what I was going through was normal but shouldn’t have such a stronghold over me, I wanted to address the grief and pain and find a way of casting it off.”
In order to do so, Harry’s partner suggested a trip to Scotland; five weeks where they could work remotely and explore the rurality in their evenings and weekends. “I treated this opportunity to address all the things I had expressed to my boyfriend and to use photography as the vessel to make those emotions and experiences physical,” Harry says, the result of which is titled Tales From the Road. The project takes the form of a series of photographs and writings (which can be found on his website), presented in chronological order to take the viewer on the same journey Harry took, both physically and emotionally. It acts almost like a diary, meandering through the countryside while Harry simultaneously works through his grief in an open and honest manner.
A big inspiration for Harry, while he was making the work, was Nomadland, the Oscar-winning film featuring Frances McDormand and directed by Chloé Zhao, that follows a woman in her 60s who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living in a van. “I watched it halfway through the trip and felt a deep connection to the lives and stories in that movie,” Harry remarks. “The phrase ‘I’ll see you down the road’ really sucker-punched me and in a way helped shape how I was feeling.” He found the parallels between his and the main character’s journeys reassuring, and while “taking on this nomadic lifestyle for five weeks obviously isn’t the same as being a nomad full time, I was able to draw upon the same themes in that story to help me with my own grief,” he adds.
When the trip came to an end, “I felt a weight being lifted,” Harry tells us. Although the trip served to begin the grieving process after all these years, he’s currently in the process of seeking professional help through therapy “as I don’t want to give the impression that a five-week trip in Scotland can heal all of your problems”. What he hopes the project does prove, however, is that “life is tough, dark and challenging but it also has light and love. Finding that light for yourself and empowering yourself isn’t a selfish act as I once thought, but vital for finding happiness.”
He has plans to turn the project into a small book or zine with sales going to charity Calm. “It’s important to me that my journey on the road can have a positive impact on those who need help and support. That to me is what photography should all be about. Sharing stories and helping one another where we can,” he says. A queer photographer, this notion is what weaves its way throughout all of Harry’s projects and he often uses his camera to further social equality and justice, as well as representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. The medium became a safe place for him during school, where he could express himself without judgement but also excel in a subject that came more naturally to him as someone with dyslexia and dyscalculia. As his journey with the camera progressed, his appreciation of the medium became more profound: “I loved that anyone can take a photograph. Even though the gatekeepers in the art world are predominantly cis men, I found as a queer creative I was able to tell and share stories that I cared about and connect with others who want to hear those stories and share their own.” And that’s really the crux of Tales From the Road. It hones in on a shared experience of humanity through an interpersonal lens – it’s at once universal and hyper intimate. It encourages empathy and self-reflection and above all, it’s simply a testament to the importance of honesty, communication, strong relationships and self-love.
Harry Rose: 1st May, 2021, Olpsie, Scotland (Copyright © Harry Rose, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.