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A Photographer Reflects on Her Loss After 11 Miscarriages

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Lost: Jane

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Lost: Tommy

“Last July, after helping a friend through a painful loss I reflected on my own personal experience. These thoughts propelled me to take down the big white box in my closet which safeguards the mementos of my lost babies. It had been quite a while since I last took each item out and as I laid them out on my bed I felt their story needed to be documented.”

San Francisco-based photographer Dianne Yudelson’s sorrow was repressed by a socially accepted code of silence which, in her words, deems miscarriage grief unreasonable. She locked it away, but each loss was commemorated by the preservation of the pregnancy test, sonogram and a few items which evoked memories.

Dianne kept mementos for each of the eleven babies she lost through miscarriage, each stored in a white box in her closet. It was only after helping a friend through a painful loss that she was able to unearth the secret suffering that she had hidden away for years.

Ten to twenty-five percent of mothers-to-be miscarry. It is a common experience, yet it’s also one we seldom hear or speak about. The photo series Lost goes against the grain, challenging the taboo surrounding miscarriage and making public the emotions that for years were very private. In doing so, Dianne hopes to create an open space for discussion, where women going through a miscarriage can speak freely about their personal experiences.

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Lost: Gwendolyn

When and why were you inspired to make Lost’?
“Last July, after helping a friend through a painful loss I reflected on my own personal experience. These thoughts propelled me to take down the big white box in my closet which safeguards the mementos of my lost babies. It had been quite a while since I last took each item out and as I laid them out on my bed I felt their story needed to be documented.”

What did you want to convey through your images?
“I have read the assertion that meaningful art occurs when you share yourself and create from the depths of your soul. So I share. Creating this series has both served to honor these precious lives, as well as bring a voice to my personal plight. Hopefully, in sharing the images I can touch the lives of numerous women who have experienced or are in the midst of experiencing the painful loss of a baby. They are not alone in their journey. I believe everyone knows someone who has miscarried, be it mother, wife, sister, friend or co-worker they simply have never spoken of it. When experiencing this type of loss other people can, in the hopes of being helpful, make insensitive comments inferring your grief is unreasonable– so you keep it private and locked away. Never hearing a conversation about miscarriage sets up a social, culture taboo.  What I hope evolves from the creation of my images is a broadening in the conversation and understanding of miscarriage, both physically and emotionally.?”

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Lost: Violet

What did the process of creating the images involve?
“For each baby I saved the sonogram and pregnancy test in an envelope labeled with their name along with their mementos wrapped in tissue. I arranged these items in a manner I felt told the narrative in a humble and pristine fashion in direct correlation to their short and pure lives. When dedicating myself to creating something humble and pristine I decided to produce the images in black and white using natural late afternoon light– those last bright moments of light before evening begins.”

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Lost: Jeff

What challenges did you encounter when making the work and how did you overcome these?
“There were two main challenges when creating my series Lost. The first was maintaining the consistency of natural late afternoon light across all ten images. This challenge was solved by shooting the series over a two week period at exactly the same time every day. Since it was mid-summer the light remained consistent. The second challenge was to balance my emotional connections to the mementos with the technical and artistic eye necessary to capture the image.”

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Lost: Mary and Vivien

What’s next for the project?
“The first stage of this project is completed in that I have documented my personal experiences. I am currently in stage two where I am turning my focus outward and working to spotlight the experiential point of view for all women in hopes of further broadening the understanding of miscarriage.”

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Lost: Georgia

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Lost: Bryce

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Lost: Robert

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Lost: Charlie

All images © Dianne Yudelson

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