We all have our rituals for times and places both great and small. From something celebratory like a fist bump after a home run to the somber with how you honor the dead.
Often the meaningful little rituals are self-invented and become part of who we are as individuals. For the bigger life altering events most would turn to the tried and true rituals, the familiar.
For some of us these formal acts and rituals donʼt always reflect the real person or event. They donʼt seem to fill the emptiness. They donʼt seem to tell the truth.
When my son died at 35 from complications with type 1 diabetes I was faced with how to memorialize him in my own way. I believe the ritual of the vessels, the launchings and the resulting photos reflect some part of who my son was and who I am.
One boat/vessel was carved from foam and sealed. A silicone mold was made on the prototype, filled with water and frozen.
I made several and tested them filled with gravel in our stream where my son fished and camped as a teenager.
These proved to be top heavy and unstable. In keeping with using only common natural material I embedded a slate keel in the hull, they now rode upright and were stable.
Multiple molds were made on the new shape and I froze and stored 24 vessels at a time. Over the last 3 years I have had four out of five planned vessel “ceremonies”.
The first was just me and no documentation. I took a small amount of ashes added a little bit of lighter fluid and quickly put them in the stream. The first ones stayed afloat 5-10 seconds.
I made a new version with the sides of the boat 1/2” higher. This extra bit of ice had the vessels staying up for 15 to 20 seconds.
The second session a week later was with Winslowʼs mother, his son, his uncle, my wife and three others who knew Win well. Only candid photos were taken.Later that summer and the following summer I had sessions 3 and 4 with photographer Daniel Elliot. Using 24 vessels at a time Daniel was up to his chin ( sometimes over his head) in the stream capturing to perfection the emotional content of those vessels and moments in the Massachusetts woods.
One more session is planned.
Fine more images and descriptions on Daniel's website.