30 January 2024

Words and images make sense of a journey through grief

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Flower buds on branch

Flower buds on a bare branch. Photo: Liz Jakimow.

When Liz Jakimow’s partner died suddenly last year, she was hit hard by a wall of grief. Looking for a way to make some sense of her emotions, the Braidwood photographer and writer made a resolution.

Every day, she would take a photograph.

Making sense of the world around her through images isn’t new for Liz, who has sold images to Shutterstock and Lonely Planet in the past. Her work’s been highly commended and taking photos is something she’s always loved.

“After Greg died, I lost myself taking photos. It somehow switched the gears in my mind a bit. So I set myself a target to take a photograph every day, no matter what it was, for my mental health,” she says.

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The photographs weren’t specifically about grief – mostly Liz photographs nature. But she noticed after a while that she was seeing the world through different eyes.

“What I wanted to photograph changed. To me photography is as much about how you feel about something as what you see. I noticed the photos told a story. The things I photographed spoke to me in my grief,” she says.

At the same time, she was writing poetry, a refuge in hard times since high school years.

“Every time the feelings welled up with no way to express them, out would come a poem,” she says.

Walking by Lake Burley Griffin one day before work, Liz saw two swans, dipping their head underwater. As she waited to capture the moment, it occured to her that there was something more to this than a daily record.

Three months of photography and writing began to coalesce and her exhibition of photography and poetry, A Journey through Grief will now open at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra on 14 February.

It’s unusual to bring together an exhibition together in such a short period of time but Liz felt compelled not only by her own reaction to the work but also that of others. Pulling together themes from Darkness Falls to Glimpses of Hope, she saw a journey emerging.

“The themes are not linear – I would feel hope and then plunge back into darkness at the same time – but like novelists who say their characters take on a life of their own, there were photos that needed to be there,” she says.

“Even if they weren’t the best ones I’d taken that day, they meant the most.”

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It was the same with poetry. People whom Liz hadn’t heard from for years contacted her when they saw her work on social media. Work connections told Liz they couldn’t stop reading her words and she began to see that the words and images worked together.

“I never intended to share this in any significant way; I’d certainly never recited poetry or intentionally publicised my work but it seems to touch people,” she says.

“I’m not the most technical poet, but I can express feelings in a way that connects with the emotions others have.

“Grief is so individual but if I hope for anything from this exhibition, it would be that people have permission to feel, no matter what that’s like, and to know they are not alone.”

A Journey through Grief is at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Blackall Street, Barton, from 15 – 18 February and 22 – 25 February from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. Free entry.

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