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Kerry Payne

Left Behind

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In a small Australian town on June 12th 2001, my father, Myles Hilton Bean took his own life, aged 60. It was a decision I had no say in, but one which would alter me and the way I viewed the world forever. In the years that followed I encountered many social stigmas and outdated taboos associated with suicide. Whilst outwardly I functioned brilliantly, inwardly I was broken. I felt completely alone; haunted by emotions common in suicide bereavement — guilt, regret, anger, a sense of failure, shame, abandonment and utter confusion all hung in heavy layers over the expected feelings of grief and mourning.

Because I never spoke of what had happened, I prolonged my healing unnecessarily. Each year, 1 million people worldwide die by suicide — more than in war, terrorist activities and homicides — making it the tenth leading cause of death in the world. For every person that dies by suicide at least 20 more will attempt to do so, yet despite the high rate, little attention is paid to the phenomenon.

At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illness – such as depression, bipolar depression, or some other depressive illness. In many cases, it is a treatable, preventable tragedy. Although most suicides are caused by mental health problems, mental health-care allocations often comprise less than 2 per cent of national health budgets. Greater attention must be given to suicide prevention, such as increased funding for research, help lines and mental health facilities.

I will continue this work and by sharing my story and those of my fellow survivors, it is my hope that others will learn from our experiences, speak up about their own, and seek comfort and support in the knowledge that they are not alone. We are many. The silence, secrecy and stigma that surrounds suicide has to end and if my work prevents a single suicide or helps one survivor avoid the many mistakes I made, it will give some meaning to a loss that nine years later, I still struggle to make any sense.

*If you or somebody you know is in crisis call 1800-273-TALK (8255) [USA]

thank you Dad, for the love you gave me in your life and the purpose you have given me in your death..



1969. Australia. I am a traveler and the urge to roam and my love of photography are happy companions. A reformed corporate world entrepreneur I now spend my days pursuing and documenting stories that matter; preserving my own version of history (with a small ‘h’) for the curious few who follow. I’ve had the honor of learning from some of the world’s most inspiring and generous photographers and I count my blessings every day to have discovered my passion so early in life. Some never do.


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Kerry Payne


59 thoughts on “kerry payne – left behind”

  1. Wow Kerry. What a piece to wake up to. Extremely well done. Not much experience with suicide but have had brushes with it in my life and I know how I feel when someone tells me “…I’ve been trying to kill myself since I was 17…” for instance as a friend did recently. That friend is 60; I got mad and said something like, “Well you are not doing a very good job if you have been trying for that long.” While watching your piece I realized how bad I felt and what a helpless feeling to have someone say that to me, especially someone I have known since 4th grade. Anger was what came up with him, for many reasons, such as his alcoholism which was fueling his desire for it. From your piece I realize that suicide is an epidemic; did not know that at all. With the almost impossible mission of keeping someone from killing themselves if they truly want to (as seemed to be conveyed by your piece) I’m not so sure I am glad to know the stats. I feel even more anger now because I know I can’t do anything to stop it if he tries again. And if someone wants death that much why are we left with so much anger? The person is getting what they want…Damn.

  2. There is no appropriate public face of suicide, it is too personal to convey with any meaning. No one not directly impacted will understand. Many who are directly impacted will get angry. If shooting these photos was helpful to you personally, though, then that is enough.

  3. The spoken accounts are powerful. The pictures much less so. I think to truly work as a multi media piece, stills on their own, or certainly as the main visual vehicle, may not be the way to go. trad video/film docu is probably still best at conveying a story like this. If I close my eyes I feel this, but if i watch it too…I dont see what im hearing. The narrative power is not there.

  4. A very powerful piece of work Kerry although my usual “congratulations on being published” comment is missing as it would seem hollow given the circumstances. You are very brave to open yourself in this way and I feel honoured that you have allowed me and others to share this with you.

    The essay is very-well paced; the cut between photographs matches the voice-overs very well. As you say, mental illness plays a significant part in these tragedies and, being what it is, is very hard for people to notice the illness: and even when they know of it, to remember that it is still there. There is no bandage or walking stick to remind us that a problem exists.

    I’m reminded of a wreath that is placed on a quiet back road that I sometimes used to walk on my way to and from work. It was / is laid every year by the parents of a young man who killed himself there and always reads “If only we had known etc.”.

    Living, slowly seems to wear many of us out. The years take their toll on body and spirit and often what is left is weary and remorse. So you are right to remember your father for his living, not his dying; and we all should try to remember that the people we know now have not always been the way they look and seem, now. Once they laughed and danced in their youth.


  5. Kerry…:))))))
    i want to say and write a lot…everybody in this room is well aware that i was dealing with a friends suicide just 10 days ago…I want to say so much and i chose to say Nothing for now…
    I loved your Self Portraits more than anything…more than the audio…although the audio was heart breaking..u did a great job and i still believe that your Self Portrait is the strongest of the bunch…
    thank you for sharing this piece with me in the Kibbutz…
    And Kerry i still think you are the “mayor” of New York City (ok, maybe Hillary’s mom shares the same title)…and thank you for making the Kibbutz roof parties soooooooo fantastic and amazing…
    my oh my…i keep staring at those amazing Self Portraits….
    big hug
    great job

  6. kerry,
    i really like your header picture. i watched this without sound since im looking at it while im at work. but will certainly listen to the entire thing tonight. i felt the reminiscing in the faces, the anger, the hurt. i am not so sure how we can capture emptiness… is there such a picture?

    part of healing i think is accepting that suicide is not the fault of the survivors. because we never know. i am tempted to say that suicide is rather a selfish act. but then i never went through thoughts of suicide myself so how would i know? easy to say easy way out but is that always the case?

    agreeable that the system needs to be fixed however if there is little support for these programs and you find that the only person that you can get in the middle of the night when youre needing help is stretched thin themselves and struggling to eat, what does that achieve? empathy you cannot put in as a requirement for a salaried position.

    multifaceted problem but how do we intervene? i guess i always try to think – it is like taking a picture. if you do not like what you see from a specific angle then take two steps this way and that and you might find a different perspective. people are too busy now. way too busy. way too much focus on making money. wanting more and more. when if we slowed down and became snails ourselves, we would find grub on the floor, little flowers now looking ginormous and beautiful and the world would be so big possibilities would be infinite.

    thank you for sharing such a personal thing. not everyone can do what you have done.

  7. Kerry –

    It’s good to see the work here; I’ve always thought that creative bodies that surface from personal experience have an importance that is their own, and your work clearly evidences this. I often associate you with a special gift of self portraiture in the casual sense, but here you have used that gift to powerful purpose.

    At times I had trouble reading the type because of its size, but I found the audio to be enough by itself, and I’d even say it has a force to stand alone without imagery. There is obviously a private world that people outside the left behind don’t know, and the direct words here give an insight that isn’t readily available; so thank you for that. You and I have discussed how I have always understood why people feel that their life is theirs to take, and I think this continued work will tangibly allow people at risk of suicide to rethink this notion and to consider the importance of seeking help.

    I love that you live your life now to the fullest, filled with laughter and light and joy.

    Shine on.

  8. How come that we often think to know better than them what’s better for others? Just because it’s easier for us, feels the right thing to us it doesn’t mean we can decide for them, or we are right and they are not…

    We gotta accept their decisions..

    The audio is powerful, as for the visual I prefer the tighter edit.

    My best wishes to you, Kerry!

  9. Oh, Kerry…

    I saw the start of this project during DAH’s and Jim Nachtwey’s workshop at LOOK 3 in June 2009. It has been with me ever since. I have longed to see where you have taken it, and now I have. Brilliant work, my sister. Absolutely brilliant. This is so much more than a photo essay: it is a call to action, a cry that says what must be said, a hand reached out to all who suffer the pain, stigma and isolation that comes when a loved one commits suicide. You also speak to those who are considering taking their lives. You show them who would suffer if they did.

    And beyond the important message, your photography is superb. Nothing sentimental or maudlin. It is simply as real as real can be. Stay with it, Kerry. This is just the start. The world needs this work.


  10. Kerry:

    first, and above all most importantly, i send my love and warmth to you for your continued courage and out-sized heart to share in both your grieving and in your love of your father and your life that without him is not possible. Regardless of the pain and the loneliness and the leaving-behind, during those eventually-won bouts of forgiveness, we learn, i hope, to see the light of a person, the importance of that person not by the devastating singularity of this act but by the entirety of who they were in this life and of which they bequeathed their children and parents and friends and colleagues, for even amid that horrendous squalor of suffering and anger and confusion, are lives are still blessed because of what they gave us. To me, there is not greater example than you, a person i’ve feel the pleasure to have spent a few brief late-night moments with and from which a took away a person alit by life and loving: that radiant smile and incandescent laughter. Surely, that magic and that enormous generosity that inhabits you came also from your father and that legacy very much, in it’s generosity and desire to confront what is often hidden behind curtains and shower doors and underneath pillows and along dirt, wooded roads and beneath the cover of night in a music driven drive….for that, for the intensity and the larger-than-me gesture of reaching out to these other survivors and allowing them to speak is, for me, the most important lesson from your father: that of profoundly loving compassion for the survivors and for those who died….

    in the early months of 1998, i lay in a hospital bed in pasadena california with a clear plastic tube carving it’s way down the back of my throat, scratching the deep breaths i was trying to recover from….because of a blessing, a nosy neighbor who tended to peak into my window late at night when he returned home from work, my parents and brothers and friends were spared the grief who have had to shoulder….but, for some unfathomable reason, i was spared and since have tried to lived as lovingly (though have failed on occasions) and as hungrily as possible….sometimes the explanations, indeed, are complex…chemical, genetic, disease of the body, of the brain, of organs….sometimes, too, it is the long, slow accumulation of exhaustion and often during those moments the leap and the vanquishing seems, in a gesture, the only thing capable of being done, when all the else exhausts and that weight, that extraordinary, wearing way is impossible to explain, but through the physical….the exhalation of that weight…..i can and shall never speak for anyone else who has tried to kill themselves and either succeeded or failed, but though it feels, in survival, in extraordinary self-ish act, in truth, what happens is one is often rendered exhausted and at that moment is nearly incapable of distinguishing anything but relief….

    and i think, kerry, you are an example of what we need more of….light and openness and compassion and the barrings of love….not love in the sentimental way, but in the urge to act and to seek out reconciliation….for the dying live on in the living and we must celebrate that, even in our grief….

    thank you for being so filled with love and for sharing your personal grief not as self-pity but as brilliant, honest care….


  11. this is a very strong essay. the strongest piece however are the pictures at the end – your self pictures and all during “your” part. I like the work, and the combination of pictures and interviews. This makes it feel close, makes it personal. memories come up inside me.

    thank you for showing.


  12. Stupid Photographer

    My brother and I have different mothers. His grandfather and two aunts committed suicide. I believe it is impossible to convey this subject via photos. Yours is a really good try, though it did not connect with me, at all.

  13. Stupid Photographer

    Meant to post that under my real name, since I retired SP. Oh well, stupid mistake. Sorry!

  14. Nice One Kerry , You saved the best till the end…very powerful!
    At the end of the day highlighting your own personal experience is probably the only way to put any face at all to the issue.

  15. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    One from the heart.

    Everyone who has lived long enough has some close or closer relationship with this so it will be no wonder that this essay will hit home with so many. Good for you, Kerry, to put yourself right in there in such a vivid way; yours is the soul of this powerfully wrought story. Without your very open presence, this would not be the compelling thing that it is. Thank you.

  16. It is a remarkable project, very intimate and deep. I like the multimedia way you chose to present it: I think you cannot help doing like that, otherwise it is a bit hard to get the complete message without words and numbers, even though your pictures are really stunning and meaningful (the picture with the letter “Sorry to disappoint” made me shudder).

  17. Kerry – good to finally see your excellent work here, where it belongs!
    It is an important subject – so important in all of our lives and certainly in yours!
    I agree with Panos, Thomas and Glenn, that you saved the most powerful part for the end: it is your own history that really holds this essay together. And I’m glad that you found your way back to happiness!!
    Hope to see you soon, maybe kibbutz-rooftop in september?!
    Take care, big hug from Germany, D.

  18. jenny lynn walker

    This is such brave work and you have elicited such honesty and open-ness from your subjects Kerry, well done! It is so intimate and deeply touching, well-crafted too and the interviews in particular are brilliant and would make excellent material for radio.

    I like that you include yourself in the piece but think it could it be stronger split into two – one piece focusing entirely on you since those are the most powerful images, and the other with a more journalistic approach. At the moment, I feel it doesn’t quite gel. I would also like to see people included who have recovered and see some of your light side in here which would make the whole piece more complete and give a sense of hope to recently-bereaved suicide survivors.

    In the UK, 6,000 people die by suicide each year. Interestingly, the rate is much higher among men – only 1,500 of the total is women. Most are connected with some form of mental illness but one in 5 among the young show no signs of emotional difficulties at all – just a sudden upset that causes them to take their life.

    Part of the problem of dealing with suicide is that the loss is so sudden – one day your loved one is there, next day they are gone – and you may have spent your entire life with that person or grown to deeply love them. It is this plus the lack of our ability to fully understand another’s mind or why they would choose to kill themselves (and choose to separate from us) that makes it so difficult.

    I am wondering whether suicide would be less traumatic to deal with if it were not so stigmatized and, am thinking about what one of your subjects says: “I didn’t deserve this”. True. But, what do we do to “deserve life”? What do we do to deserve having parents raise us? What do we do to deserve to be able to “give life and have children”? And why do we expect people to be with us for all of our lives? Most of us take all of this for granted. Death, for some, is freedom – and we have to continue to love those that end their own lives and find a way to deal with our attachment. Not easy as we see from this work.

    That last line in your intro struck me in particular. I think we should not to let the losses or difficulties we face direct us – that we find a way to see them for the challenges that they are and find the strength to overcome them. One of the fastest ways to recover is to spend time with people whose stories, life histories and daily life are worse than our own – and there are millions…

    Thank you for this very important work. I would be really interested to hear whether professionals who work with people who suffer mental illness think the work could help prevent suicides.

    I am a survivor by the way – of this and other nasties – and for me, a quote by Tennyson says how I feel: “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

    Best wishes and keep up the great work!


  19. hi kerry :ø)

    well done for getting this together and presenting something inclusive..
    familiar thoughts rise from the dialogue and it´s prompted memories for certain – as well as recognized the unanswered questions.. it is so difficult to remember somebody when there is the obstacle of their choice to die.. too easy to file them on a top shelf in the subconscious, just beyond reach.

    some strong images to match the strong dialogue and theme.

    Ø with thanks Ø

  20. Just another amateurish clueless attempt to use photography for what it isn’t suitable at all… this kind of “multimedia” stuff has no future at all, and is an absolute nonsense now… yes, writing and good pictures work together very well, yes sound and good photography work together very well… but if one tries to use photography INSTEAD of video, writing or sound… mix it… and then call it a photo essay/story whatever it becomes just nothing but a mess and nonsense without any impact, a new trend for untalented guys with photo cameras… Photography is an art of the moment… always been, it will always be… when I see such “multimedias” it kind of gives me a feeling that some guys try to do everything to make photography die a horrible death… fortunately, there are still places and PHOTOGRAPHERS, and even these days I can see a really good photography… Open minded approach is a very good thing, but only when it comes with a general knowledge and talent… Having a story to tell and willingness to tell it, is nothing – a total zero… ability to do it is much more important and valuable…

  21. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Awwww, Anthony…..you skipped sensitivity training again, didn’t you? And I will also guess that there will be a few others besides myself who will disagree vehemently with your very narrow assessment of photography and what it should be.

    You have your opinions. Clearly.

  22. Kerry, great work. Bravo. I agree with the general assessment that the strongest stuff is at the end, which is how it should be for a confident storyteller. My only suggestion is to tweak the timing of the transitions in the early part of the essay and to consider idea of adding some sound to the quiet areas. The two suggestions are probably related. Several times I found myself taken out of the flow of the story, particularly when the audio cut off abruptly. Perhaps mixing in some kind of background sounds, maybe white noise or gentle rain, something like that, would help smooth it out.

    Anthony, I’m sorry but your comment makes little, if any sense. Pictures and sound and writing work well together but they don’t? I’d love to see an intelligent discussion about multimedia here on Burn. Why don’t you get your thoughts together and present them in dialogue, which would be a more appropriate place for them anyway?

  23. Hi Anthony. Your comment has challenged some of us to think again of the basics of photography. Please give us a link, if possible, to a photo essay where sound (words?) and photos really work well together. I think this will help broaden the discussion.

  24. Firstly, I just want to say I’m sorry about your dad, Kerry, and I hope that doing this project has helped in some small way.

    When I started watching it, it just wasn’t working for me, there’s a detatchment there that doesn’t come close to showing how traumatic an event it is but then came the piece from Chris Reynolds, and that started touching on how deeply it cuts and how it doesn’t go away and how it’s always just below the surface. I think the photography was more poignant in his story too…it shows life going on without his father and brother and emphasises the loss far more because of that, because that’s what you live with, their absence.

    I think you’ve just begun this project, not completed it.

    love Vicky.

  25. kerry..
    for I too,
    have lost my brother
    and now,
    my creative partner to suicide….
    I would love to see this story evolve for you,
    as vicky says,
    ‘I think you’ve just begun this project, not completed it….’
    YOU have a beautiful voice,
    to tell this story….
    I think this multi media piece could be a little tighter,
    my heart is heavy this morning,
    the tears fall…
    it touched me
    thanks for sharing….

  26. i neva knew there were so many people dying by suicide every year ….. for me too the self portraits come out the strongest plus i digg that mickey mouse image …. kerry you defntly are one strong aussie …… take care ….. vivek ….

  27. Kerry,

    Really wonderful and heartfelt. Of course it is close to impossible to convey the full spectrum of emotion, hurt, loss, and anger associated with suicide I don’t think that this takes away from your essay. You use images, words and sound to inform and educate and give a face to this issue, and I think you have done a fantastic job. I personally love multi-media pieces like this and it was well executed. I am sorry about your dad and really felt your loss through the self-portraits and surrounding photos. You have opened yourself up to place of extreme vulnerability and that takes courage, thank you for sharing with us.

    All the best,


  28. I’m in the field, in a place with very slow and poor internet connectivity and little time to be here and so I have just now found this piece. It is timely for me, as I am entering phase two of a larger project with a suicide component and I have been wondering how to go about it.

    When I get time, I will take a closer look and see what I can learn.

    While I am not in a spot where I could listen to the audio, the short text mixed with the photos worked for me – I just wanted to be able to move through at my own pace. Go through some images faster, linger on a couple of others.

    You communicated your personal pain to me, though.

    In the end, that is what much good story telling is about – taking something personal and communicating it to someone else.

    On the subject of suicide, you can hardly be expected to be there to document the moment – perfect situation for working images and words together.

  29. Jamie Maxtone-Graham,

    The purpose of art is to touch otherwise indifferent people… if one is over-sensitive, probably his place is in a hospital… sensitivity and visual literacy are completely different things… however, the more visually literate you become, the less sensitive you become to unsuccessfull attempts to create art…


    If you feel challenged enough, spend your time looking for it at the Magnum website, there were a couple of decent sound-pictures essays on Burn as well, just look online, there are quite a few of them… OK, for words and pictures, for the very beginning, look at National Gegraphic magazine – it’s a very good magazine and you will not only enjoy good photography but also learn about the world… unfortunately, it would take hours for me to find you the links, because I never save links to the places with good photography, nor can I send you NG magazine… spend your time for your own education as I did…

  30. Pingback: Kerry Payne: Left Behind « wm

  31. Well, as far as I’m concerned, this has been the most moving of Burn Magazine experiences. Kerry, I think about my mum and dad all the time at the moment as my family and I are about to visit them in Ireland. They are strong and vital in their mid 70’s but as my dad often tells me, and he knows it winds me up, he’s “near the tape”.

    I wonder how many more visits my kids and I will get to have with him and my mum before they fade away. It can’t be many. And I struggle with that.

    I’m about to meet my half sister for the first time in my life. I’m adopted and was brought up in Ireland while she lived with our mother here in England. I never thought about my birth mother until quite recently. She died very young. Much younger than I am now. So I’m beginning to understand the depths of pain that people experience with tragic loss. I wish you well for the future and I feel privileged to have been invited to share your very personal work. It’s an immensely powerful piece. My wife is a psychiatrist and one of her areas of expertise is stigma and so we’ve had many discussions about it as it pertains to mental illness.

    Again, I wish you well.

    Paul Treacy

  32. Holy Guacamole..i don´t know what more some people could want from an essay/multimedia piece. I came in, saw DAH´s new dialogue topic, kinda glanced through comments to get an idea of the controversy and expected a dismal experience watching the piece. But far from it! This piece blew me away! I found the photography expressive, often symbolic versus literal, connotative versus denotative..the voices almost spookily at times evoked the image as if it was being said right there to me live, which made me nod with spontaneous emotional/intellectual comprehension of what was being expressed. That´s something we expect from video but not so much still photography. Kudos for that achievment, Kerry! There were enough of the portraits of the bereaved to convey the complexity of their loss without the essay descending into the maudlin. Kerry forthrightly focused on her subjects, allowing them to express themselves while still affording them dignity and respect. The spacing of the ambient type photos, puddles, swirling water, whatever they might be allowed me to go into my own heart and mind and do the work of understanding Kerry´s vision rather then simply being led by the hand through an entire essay of heart-jarring emotional content.

    I have really enjoyed all the recent essays and Kerry´s was no disappointment. I think that Anthony RZ doth protest too much and that there´s something more to his disdain and frustration than perhaps he wants to face. There have been (and will continue to be) essays and single photos that i have reacted to with almost over-the-top contempt (usually in the middle of the night) and while i stood by my criticism, i often wondered where the anger came from. Definitely somewhere deep. He expresses almost explosive personal frustration with Kerry´s attempt to use photography for what he believes it is not meant to be used for. I disagree. Photos are created by a machine. Period end of story. It is man´s rules alone that corrals and confines visual expression. Does that mean there should not be valid criticism? Standards? Quality? Not at all. He says the piece is a mess, but he never says why, never addresses in detail exactly what isn´t working for him. That´s a judgement, not critisicm. To imply that Kerry is an amateur completely without talent because she has chosen to use the medium of the single photo, plus sound, plus text to express her vision is an extreme dismissal of this artist´s achievment and potential. He´s plainly miffed at her for coloring outside his lines.

    Best to you, Kerry for a very meaningful experience. I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad. Horrible.


  33. Hi Kerry..I watched this yesterday and your images are still with me – intimate and moving. I managed to keep myself intact throughout the essay until the very end…then the floodgates opened. I am so very sorry for the loss of your Dad and commend you for confronting this heartbreaking, life changing experience. I hope this journey has brought some peace. Your Dad will live on in your light…which we all know burns very bright!

  34. Responding to Anthony’s points, first off I’d like to say that I feel that the story, the issue, the intent (sincerity) even, is of most importance, because without that initial impulse to convey something real that that person feels, experiences, then no matter how well crafted a story may be, it will inevitably be forgotten. Of course crafting a story, an idea in whatever medium or genre takes learning, but I don’t think it becomes unworthy by lack of technique.

    The images in Kerry’s essay worked for me in conveying the sorrow felt by these individuals.

    I believe sincerity comes through and shines, and can become wonderful, even when you got someone struggling with a couple of chords singing from their heart more than the most sophisticated musician playing the same tune for the umpteenth time.

  35. ¨The purpose of art is to touch otherwise indifferent people…¨

    now, that is so limiting and restrictive it’ s just silly..
    the comments here are littered with people who are not indifferent to the subject and who seem to have gained from the work and opening up to their experience of it.


  36. Kerry – I made my comment in a big hurry yesterday, and I have been feeling a little badly about it since, as I did not express my sorrow and condolences for your loss. The closest family member that I have lost to suicide is a first cousin, but I have lost many friends and associates.

    I still haven’t been in a spot where I have had the time or solitude to play your essay in its entirety with the sound and will not have until I return home early next week, but, just from the words I saw combined with the photos, I am among those who were moved by your work and feel that you did a fine job.

    As for Anthony RZ, the part of his comment that DAH quoted may have been provocative, worthy of discussion and so on and so forth, but his analysis of your work was way off the mark and very self-serving. I think Kathleen has nailed Anthony down on this one.

  37. I responded to the ‘ability to tell’ dialog earlier today, and in doing so I addressed my purpose in shooting this story, along with a response to Anthony RZ’s comments and David’s subsequent question about the importance of story vs. ability to tell it, which has sparked some terrific discussion. To avoid repetition, I’ll paste that comment at the bottom of this one and add just a little here to respond directly to your essay comments.

    For me, the beauty in BURN being the vehicle to publish my first photographic essay lies in the feedback, the support, the suggestions and the honest critique offered here.

    The longer I sit with your comments, the more I‘ll gain from them, and I know that will manifest as positive growth in my next essay from this project. So, stay tuned and thank you for taking the time to view and comment on this work, which is obviously so important to me.

    Your stories and personal accounts of your own brushes with suicide moved me greatly. For that I also offer heartfelt thanks, because in sharing your experiences and the impact this essay has on you, you are helping me to realize my hope for this work – that people begin to talk about this issue, that it is brought out of the darkness and discussed openly, and without awkwardness or stigma.

    I’m lucky enough to have met several of you in person here at the Kibbutz and others I hope to meet in the next chapter. BURN is indeed a one-of-a-kind community and I am grateful to David and Anton for publishing my work here and offering me the opportunity to share it with you.

    [RE-POSTED FROM DIALOG ‘ABILITY TO TELL’ – July 21, 2010 at 9:39am]

    I hope I’m not too late to this party — just back in NY and finally online again.

    I am immensely grateful to everybody who has taken the time to view this essay and share with me your feelings about it. I will address those more specifically under the Left Behind thread after I’ve re-read and considered all comments one more time.

    David, I’m so pleased you started this dialog. The energy flowing from the discussion here gets right to the heart of all that is special about Burn Magazine and why it is such a valuable resource for the photographic community.

    Is story or the ability to tell it well more important? In my experience as a new entrant into the photo world, I was photographing around the edges of this subject, getting nowhere, really, until DAH gave me the push I needed to dive right into it.

    His advice at the time, ‘you gotta have something to say.‘ Well, I had something to say and I am grateful to him for helping me make the leap from shooting subway musicians to something that can, and will, make a difference.

    Can the photography improve? Yes. Can the construction of the essay be more polished? Yes. Does this essay in its current format make an impact on the people it is targeting? Yes. That much I know from the heartfelt comments I’ve received from so many who’ve been touched by suicide and have viewed it in all it’s rough-around-the-edges glory.

    So for me, the story leads, and the way it is told will continue to improve with time and experience.
    I’m not so sure I wanted to tell this story, but it needed to be told. My purpose was and is to raise awareness of this issue, to get people talking about suicide and hopefully to reduce the stigma and collateral damage it leaves behind year after year.

    To that end, I am hungry to learn how to do justice to the courageous people who are willing to open their hearts and share their stories with us. This dialog and the essay feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly) is fuel for my fire as I continue my work on this project and to grow as a photographer.
    Thank you.


    p.s. David, no, I was not moved to tears by Anthony’s RZ’s comments – although I do fully expect him to buy the first round should we ever meet in real life. ;-)

  38. “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”–Chinese Proverb

    Kerry….Anthony RZ….

    First of all, I would like to leave a follow up comment for Kerry….

    Kerry, I want to again iterate to you about what I wrote 2 days ago. I want to celebrate you, again, for having the courage and the honesty to being able to speak out about your suffering in a public way and to turn that pain and isolation and well-spring of sorrow into the love and strength to be a conduit through which others who similarly grieve can have the opportunity to express the weight and longing and nearly inexpressible searing of pain and incredulity that accompanies the survival of the suicide of a loved one. Like others, I found YOUR photographs and story the most visually powerful, ambiguous, questioning and memorable. It is the ending and the pictures that accompany your story that i found not only the most ‘convincing’ but for me the most important aspect of the piece that SPEAKS to the significant power of photography as a medium of communication and expression. While I did think that there are some terrific pictures that accompany the other families’ stories, most of the photographs of the other families where more visual ‘evidence’ to accompany the narrative we hear, with the exception of the picture of the suicide note (devastating image) and some of the metaphoric images (the anger’d sea, the picture of the cemetary, the picture of the family album with missing pis on the right side of the book). This was completely FINE with me given the ‘essence’ behind this piece (which i think has been a bit mis-read by others, more about that later). I do think that as photography the ‘introduction’ (everything before the images directly relating to you), they seem more as literal ‘put the audience next to the subjects’ images. I did NOT need that as I am already with them through their voices and stories. Maybe this is what Anthony RZ is suggesting? i dont know. I do know,however, that when we reach your story, the ENTIRE idea changes and I was mesmerized (?) and haunted. There is where the power of still photography lay: the power of SILENCE. the visual metaphor, the quotidian re-seen through a different perspective. The collision of the pictures (many of them which are very beautiful: the child swinging, your frank and powerful self-portraits, the soaken, lost/abandoned window, the man leaving the subway, the craved up sky and sea) with your voice and narratives IS WHAT MULTIMEDIA IS about: it is contrapuntal and confusing: it provokes not only our thoughts and our emotions but it forces us to re-see the world. Can one ever look at a child swinging into the sun and not remember the death of a parent?. Can one ever look at a smiling portrait of Kerry and not see the pain that lingers beneath the coast of her smile? Can one not look again at a rain-sapped window and no SEE ANEW what she sees/experiences in that window: loss and remembrance? THAT Kerry (and Anthony) is NOT CLUELESS AND AMATEURISH, that is evocation and beauty and honor!

    I think photography’s power lay squarely in it’s remarkable ability to speak through the evocation of both silence and contradiction/conflation/reorientation. in your part of this piece we do not get ‘obvious visual’ testimony, but we can a train ride of images that join death and loss and bewilderment with the outside world not in literal ways but in poetic and confusing and ambiguous ways. THIS IS THE NATURE OF WORK. I do not understand how any photographer cannot see that clearly. The power of this piece lay in the second half and that should be celebrated and honored Anthony, period.

    But i imagine (kerry, tell me if I am wrong) that Kerry needed not to tell only her story. In fact, i’m betting she felt that if she only told her story it would feel too clausterphobic, too narcissistic, too self-indulgent. I would say that is not true, of course, because each of of your individual stories is OUR collective story and the most important work always springs from the work of digging and examining the stories that are deeply and personally a part of who we are. However, I know, or rather I can imagine that kerry felt the need (calling?) to want to turn her personal private pain into an act of compassion and action. She wanted to give those others who have suffered the opporunity to speak: thus she has done that. I don’t not blame/criticize her for this choice. In fact, i find it a deeply loving and humane one (infinitely more important than the world of photography) and I stand up and applaud and embrace her for this choice. I still feel THE STORY here must be her story and the people closest to her, but in the meantime, if she wishes to work with other survivors, i say go ahead. I would only suggest that since we have their voices, we don’t need visual direct images/testimony, we needs images that speak of their loss…something not so obvious, we see/hear their tears, we need to see other aspects: what does emptyness and loss and abandon look like…

    I also want to talk about what I think this work is about. I do not think this work is at all about suicide. As Jim and others have written, it is impossible to write or photography suicide for it is an act that is infinite in it’s meaning and in it’s manifestations and causes, and most of those who know it best take with them reasons/motivations/causes/rationale/moments into eternity. I do not think Kerry is trying at all to either explain or describe suicide at all, but rather to work out the depth and expression of remaining behind. In other words, this is not about her father or the others who died, this is about survival and reconciliation and coping with that. In this measure again, this is only a beginning and what lends such power to me. We see Kerry negiotiating and dealing with the loss and from them stemming outward by lending voice to others to speak of that which often seems unspeakable….how do i know…

    as i wrote before, i’ve been down that chasm 12 years ago. over a 3 week period, i tried to kill myself twice. the first time, an overly-dramatic call for help which ended in a 48 hr observation facility and the second time, the real deal, changed my and my family’s life forever. For whatever reason, I was blessed and lucky to have had neighbor who found me late at night and called paramedics to revive/hospitalize etc etc etc….For a long long time, I lived with both the guilt and the shame (how could I, the oldest son, the ‘strongest’ one who helped and loved everyone done this, etc) and even after I moved from California to florida to return to my family, my parents and brothers never wanted to talk about what happened, except to express both their love and concern and fear …and also dismay and anger. I count those bleak days in the hospital and later mental clinic the beginning of my second cat-life and afterword all the deep blessings have come to my life (my wife and son, my photography, my friends, my life since, etc) and i am hear to suggest that to look at kerry’s piece as an exploration of suicide is to slightly miss the idea. It is, to me at least, an act of forgiveness and love, a piece that in it’s attempt to give voice to other’s loss, an attempt to heal and to offer assuage to others who often feel unhealable…

    seen as a vehicle of communication, this piece succeeds and more so than that begins to offer a glimpse into a world that most people do not know directly, but indirectly….and that, still, is the power of story telling…again, far from clueless…

    I celebrate you kerry and your life and your work. I think the direction lay in your story…it’s calling there for sure…..you are a beacon of light…and imagine how proud your father is…that is still his gift to you, even though he probably didnot know well enough or feel strong enough how much and how important his love and life was, but it’s there now in you…and that cannot be drummed away or smothered my dear….like an aussie accent ;))))

    Anthony RZ…

    so, ok. I am preparing an even longer comment to leave under david’s new post but let me deal directly hear with your comments. I agree completely that as a multimedia piece, the power lay in Kerry’s story and not in the use of photographs for the other families. However, i think you’ve maybe misunderstood the reasoning behind their use. As i tried to describe above, clearly Kerry is using photography here as visual evidence of the family’s suffering: in a simple, direct and unaffected way. Is it redundant? Yes because we get that in the sound tract. I also agree with you (i think) that most multimedia piece fail because creating a multimedia piece is much much more than simply stringing pictures together and adding a soundtract or video or text, etc. No doubt. On bad days, I lament the entire multimedia and it’s fetishization in the world of photography (and i’ve made short films myself) as it often feels just plain empty: the same way many newspapers now require writers to snap pictures or the way some photographers write: it’s more than just 1+1=2, for sure.

    However, I find the tone and the suggestion of your criticism not only disdainful but ‘clueless’ itself. I’ve spent my fair amount of time helping younger photogrpahers and colleagues. I’ve helped a number of photographers here edit their essays (including some of finalists over the last 2 years) and i’ve NEVER in my life been derisive about work that i felt either didn’t work or make sense. More importantly, you would be hard pressed to find any decent and teaching-minded photographer ever bash another photogrpahers work. Listen, I’ve dont some teaching and I’ve listened to to david talk to students and he’s straight up no-bullshiter. I’ve never, ever, heard david talk about work as shallowly or as condescendingly as you have done here. Clearly this anger and judgment is more about you than it is this piece. Calling someone ‘clueless’ and something amateurish simply reveals your own disdain for her and for a colleague. you are a photographer, aren’t you?

    the MOST IMPORTANT criticism comes from frank dialog and enriched conversation (absolutely) but not from dismissing work. The failure is yours Anthony. I’ve taken alot of heat too here at burn, first as a commentator, then when i was editor-at-large for a short time (meaning, talent scout, not editor: that is only david) and then when i published ‘bones’ and then again mostly for being too ‘nice.’ for never criticizing. However, i find conversation important and i find critical discussion handled better in person or directly (emails/face to face/skype) etc. I’ve been called a sap or sycophant cause of my positive support for almost all work here and i can live with whatever people think. However, what is often lost on the web is that people cower behind anonymityh and enmity. I challenge you to say the same things directly to a photographer: you see, it sounds vacuous and empty because it is.

    I might add that the ability TO TELL A STORY begins, above all, with the ABILITY TO LISTEN TO ANOTHER PERSON TELL THE STORY FIRST…..that you cannot even see that as an intricate part of Kerry’s piece is a gross oversight on your part….and an irony…..

    before you speak about what constitutes the ability to tell a story, i politely ask you again to remember that in order to become a story teller, you must first have the patience and the desire to listen to the stories being told….and kerry, clearly, has that in spades…

    the other points your brought up (important ones), i’ll write about later tonight…..i hope you join the chat…


  39. bob black,

    I accept your criticism of my criticism… it sounds to me quite similar to what I have written on Kerry’s assay myself, it just covers slightly different aspects… and thanks for some other interesting thoughts… regards…

  40. anthony r.z.

    ;)))…touche :)…i am very happy to have re-read your comments on the other thread and more than that happy you and kerry have reached out to one another…that’s a class thing to do….anyway, web isnt the soundest form of communication (i often appear like a long-winded lunatic ;)) )….so, thanks for sticking in to the discussion with professionalism….cheers, bob

  41. Great job Kerry, keep going on this project… you have something to say in the way you know. It is not easy to show through photos and to be able to tell something about such hard tragedy so little taken in consideration. I likes the pictures and the image captions on FB helped me to better understand what they were saying.
    keep going.

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  43. Kerry,

    so good to see your essay up on Burn! We already went through it together so you know that I admire you for doing a project that is both difficult to visualize and in general a heavy topic. And last but not least – of special meaning to you. You also know that I find several of the images very moving, and others not so strong.
    You are an emerging photographer, so Burn is obviously a place for you to show your work and get feedback. From your respond to the critique, I know that you will learn a lot from this. I am really impressed too by your commitment for this project and the topic on many levels, by collaborating with organizations etc. So many (professional) photographers stop to care about their topic as soon as the story is published, or they struggle to find a way to make a difference with their work. When your work is finished, and exhibited the way you plan, I strongly believe that it actually will make a difference for a lot of people.
    Thank you Kerry. Gooo girl!!!

  44. Chris Rand-Reynolds


    I just wanted to thank you again, for allowing me to be a part of this project, and giving me the ability to share my story. As I said to you before, I know my story is in good hands. I think every one of our thoughts and feelings were clearly conveyed. Remembering back, I think we did that original interview very shortly after Jeff took his life. Sarah and I both watched this last night and she mentioned that she could hear the anger in my voice. Anger is, for me, the first and most prevelent emotion I encounterd with these losses. It is what drives me and it is the fire inside that gave me the courage to do this with you. I think you’ve done a fantastic job on this and I look forward to more. I’m sure there will be some sort of constant metamorphasis. Thank you again for allowing me the ability to have my voice heard and thank you for all that you do. This is a tremendous project and I’m proud to be a part of it, and am very glad to have got to know you. Thank you so much for all that you do.

    Also, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say something about A.RZ’s comment. It reminded me of every art teacher I ever had growing up. All I ever heard was, ” that’s not how so and so did, or does it.” No one ever did anything great or made any sort of lasting impact on this planet by following suit or status quo.
    Keep on fighting the fight. It is so important what you’re doing.

    Thank you Kerry.


  45. Kerry,

    Intense piece and a subject that needs to be dealt with.

    I too am a survivor – my father killed himself (by car) when I was twelve (he 37). And I mopped up my younger brother’s blood from an attempt ten years ago. He was within seconds of dying but had the good sense to call 911.

    It wears on you, especially if it’s not dealt with at the time. I was pretty much “shielded” from my father’s death and his mental illness that led up to it. Things just aren’t talked about in our family.

    I recommend ayahuasca as a treatment for this sort of “soul loss.” If you are not aware of it, please google it and/or contact me. It can be very intense work yet bring great relief and closure. It can also show you ways of thinking about problems such as our father’s suicides that might shed new light. I am now aware that a lot of my pain and suffering isn’t from what my father did but from what my mother and rest of the family “didn’t” do at the time, not giving me and my brother some solace and understanding. But it’s also taught me to not lay blame. Yes, I was heartbroken, but everybody deals (or doesn’t deal) in their own ways and you need to leave them to that (and yourself). Anyway, I hope you find some relief and ability to move on. This piece seems like a good step.



  46. jenny lynn walker

    Kerry: All the little details you just explained are vital to the viewers’ understanding of the photographs so there needs to be a way to incorporate them. How about having a slideshow in parallel with the multimedia piece or to construct the whole in such a way that there is an option to look at the images without the audio? It would give the potential to engage viewers more deeply in the images without the sound afterwards – to look at them at their own pace and read the captions. This was done with the Pagetti piece we discussed earlier on this thread.

  47. Dear Kerry,
    At the beginning of the slideshow, I thought this would have been a easy cheesy way to “impress” some souls addressing such an emotional kind of story.
    Then, the more I went through the photos and audio, the strength within your essay shined through!
    I was touched, by the delicacy and intelligence of your photos, the way you edited and mostly by the variety of these stories.
    I was really moved, and I truly think that this kind of work can make people think a little bit deeper about this tragic trend.
    Loss, void, solitude and hopelessness come through as bold big capital letters in your essay.
    This is a sad story, but nevertheless it’s a tragic truth. You made it arrive to us in a very gentle, yet strong, manner.

    Thanks a lot

  48. Okay.

    I am back home now with a fast internet connection and in my office with my headphones on so I am free to listen as well as watch. I just did.

    When I was in the field, with access to only a slow connection for brief periods of time and in a situation where I could only view and not listen to the audio, I stated that the words and photos worked to communicate the story. My only complaint was that I would have liked to have been able to scroll through at my own pace.

    But now that I have sat down and watched it again with full audio… wow! I found it very well done and powerful. I am completely at a loss concerning the criticism that it is not good photography or good story telling either and that it does not work.

    It is excellent photography. It is excellent story-telling. It all works well together.

    Kerry – once again, but even more so, congratulations on a tough, personal, yet universal piece well done.

  49. originally I watched this somewhere where sound was not available and I didn’t even get through the whole essay, as the pictures felt too heavy handed and contrived, almost humorous. I have just finished playing it again, with sound, and I am moved to tears-was moved by the very first voice and then again with each new story. The audio is real, and raw, and brave.

    For the first three subjects the pain of the loss is communicated through the audio, and one portrait of each speaker was enough for me to feel connected to them. Once I felt the connection I wanted to see their memories, what they are missing, the visuals they are cycling through when processing the tremendous loss.

    color family photos are prominently and proudly displayed on shelves and in albums in most families homes. family photos are stored in boxes and we hang on to them, even as they discolor and fade, as celebrations of our lives. While listening to the audio I kept my eyes open for the textual statistics and to see each new speaker’s face and then I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what the family photos of their children, spouse, or parent looked like–colorful, scratched, abstracted, revisited. I kept wishing that you had shown us those.

    (you dance around them in your pictures–showing people holding them, showing them displayed in rooms, but I wanted to SEE/FEEL them….to see the photos/memories how they are viewed by the ones who will hold onto them –or hide them away?–as something tangible that still remains of their lost loved one)

    Chris’s audio brings us to a turning point -he is fighting against the pain of the past in order to be present for his children and his wife. I saw his story as being about the here and now. Though I rejected the visuals of the roads signs, mannequin face… –felt , again, too forced, I responded to the images showing his family and his children –who he is now living for. I think the visuals should focus here..

    I feel the final section works well. As your audio was more about the trapping of yourself in the grieving –being caged in by the act of your father’s suicide–I felt the almost claustrophobic, fuzzy, self portraits were quite fitting as they forced us, the viewers, to be contained with you. the final image of you confronting the viewer about the dangerous cycle of violence was a quite powerful and significant ending, straight from and shot through the heart.


  50. hmmm … I am one who is affected by this too. Differently though. And I am kind of going through hot & cold seeing this essay and reading the comments.

    I will better not write now. In a couple of days I might come back here.

    Kerry, thanks for sharing.

  51. Shaka, perhaps the captions might help make sense of some of the images? You can see them in the ‘Left Behind’ album here: http://www.facebook.com/kerrypayne.photo

    To you and the few others who’ve commented with no way for me to send a personal note — thank you.

    Yesterday I was lucky enough to review this essay in detail with the very generous James Estrin from the NY Times Lensblog — he was very supportive of the storytelling + content and like Shaka, he suggested I reduce the number of interview portraits and include some of the family ‘snaps’ to bring the loved ones more into the stories. It certainly adds another element to the project.

    Thanks again to everybody for your considered critique and thoughtful feedback on this work. After just one week and so much dialog here and in the ‘Ability to Tell’ thread, I have much to work with as I continue this project.

    I am both grateful and inspired — a fine state to be in!


    p.s. Anthony RZ, I’m holding you to that drink when you hit NYC.

  52. Hey Kerry,

    This is a brave and fitting tribute to your father and your love for him.

    I am deeply touched by this for its humanity.

    Thank you for your courage…

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  54. well, that one will stay with you. good work, kerry. My dad’s mom killed herself with a shotgun when he was 7. I never knew her and he never talked about her, but you are right….that hole is vast and always there…looming.

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