© Joel Whitaker
By Joel Whitaker
Artist: Joel Whitaker
Project: When Things Go Missing: In Memoriam
Description: In the course of mourning the death of his parents, photographer Joel Whitaker began to observe the visual tendencies that occurred on the periphery of funerals, particularly the sight of errant, abandoned, and wind-swept floral arrangements. Whitaker found these instances of bouquets, which had originally been placed caringly on gravesites, now tangled up in brambles, resting at the trunks of trees, surrounded by weeds, and wedged under barbed-wire fences. Since so many of the arrangements were fake, made of dyed silk and plastic, they held their color and shape, announcing themselves proudly from the natural spaces encircling the interred.
Stripped of their original purpose, these objects of sentiment formed new meanings. A rose, disembodied on the grass, seemed even more profound in the absence of its headstone. A cluster of spring-toned blossoms matched—and ennobled—the bright yellow sheath of a telephone pole’s support wire. Drawn initially to these images as a distraction from grief, Whitaker came to observe these displaced flowers and ephemera as a necessary counterbalance to the somber etiquette of death, a reminder of the “impermanence of the original, well-planned, and ordered memorial.”