My wife and I lost our baby boy, Alexander, at birth just over three years ago now.  The reaction from many of those around us when we lost our son was very sympathetic.  But from others we were dismissed in a wave of "comforting" remarks.  We were told that: "at least you still have your daughter";  "better luck next time";  "you had a funeral?!"  and so on.  

As the months since it happened have turned into years many of those who are now around us did not know us at the time.  They know we had a stillborn child but have little or no understanding of how this can affect a family and, of course, they are certain in their own minds that it will never happen to them.  

I am determined to raise awareness of the devastation caused by the death of a baby and want to put on a photographic exhibition, entitled Seventeen. This exhibition is intended to visually document the fact that seventeen families are affected by this kind of loss everyday and at the same time encourage a public discussion about the issues surrounding it.  

The exhibition will display seventeen photographs of women that were pregnant with the baby that subsequently died.  Underneath the photo will be details about the baby including their name, date of birth/death and gestation/age and what position the baby was in the family (ie firstborn, second child, etc).  

The aim of the exhibition is to highlight four/five dimensions of the loss experienced by parents and their families.  In particular:

  • the number of families that suffer this type of loss everyday;
  • the emotional loss experienced by the parents and their families - I think the hope, intimacy, expectation and excitement of birth are loudly expressed in the photos of pregnant women;
  • the babies that have lost their lives.  The babies name and the date they died underneath the photo will challenge the viewer to consider that a child has lost their life;
  • encourage the viewer to question whether the gestation period/age, or whether the child was the first or second born, etc, affects the size of the loss and pain experienced by the parents.

I already have 3-4 families that are interested in participating but I am looking for others to obtain a complete set of seventeen photos.  To maximize the impact I am looking for a series of photos that relate to a loss for a range of ages/gestations in a variety of different circumstances.  I am also looking for public venues around the country in which to host the exhibition.  

If you would be interested in participating and have a relevant photo from the pregnancy when you experienced the loss, or know of a friendly and sympathetic venue curator/owner please contact my wife Shazia or myself either email jkemp(at)btinternet.com or call 0797 4353846.

Anybody that would like to contribute to the costs of organising the exhibition can do so at our online donation page www.justgiving.co.uk/17

Please be aware that it is unlikely that we will be able to use all the photos that are submitted and if yours is not chosen it is only a question of not having enough room to include everyone. Either way we will contact all entrants to let you know.

If your photograph is used in the exhibition you will be required to complete a permissions form. All photos submitted will be treated sensitively and in confidence and only considered for use in the exhibition and not reproduced elsewhere. 

I will be working with Sands on the exhibition, so if you have any further questions either contact me or Erica Stewart at Sands head office, on 020 7436 7940 or erica.stewart(at)uk-sands.org

Many thanks and best wishes

John Kemp