Content Analysis of 51 Stillbirth Memento Photographs
Research into stillbirth memento photography shows the practice to be welcomed by the bereaved. The visual attributes and content of stillbirth memento photographs are yet to be rigorously analysed however, representing a significant gap in current understanding. This study seeks to address this. 51 professionally produced stillbirth memento photographs have been sampled, anonymised and analysed. Using a content analysis methodology, imagery was characterised by aesthetic and semantic properties. The content analysis identified four distinctive image tropes in the sample: images of mother, father and baby, with the baby being held and the parents touching; macro photography of the baby; portrait photographs of babies lying alone with little or no physical trauma evident; and images of a parent, usually the mother, cradling the baby. The focus of the study is on the imagery produced by professional photographers for the bereaved following the death of their baby. The study seeks to measure and evaluate the content of these photographs. Primary data has been drawn from publicly available photographs that were published on websites and social media. Imagery has been collated from a range of sources to ensure the sample is representative and not the product of one photographer or of a specific charity’s guidelines (such as Remember My Baby). Imagery has only been used where explicit consent for publication was listed. The imagery is not reproduced and has been anonymised, but is available to access via hyperlinks in the results database. The semantic analysis of this study seeks to measure who was included in the photographs, in terms of their relationship to the baby, and how they engage with one another (and the camera) as expressed through position, gesture, proximity and gaze. This coding is designed to identify inferred social relationships, as measured through the frequency and correlation of visual markers and motifs associated with familial and social identity. Aesthetic attributes have been categorised according to visual qualities specific to photography. These relate to what is included or excluded from the image, point of view, how closely the main subject is cropped, image format, exposure length, the application of blur and sharpness within the image as a result of depth of field and colour saturation. The delineation of aesthetic attributes and semantic content is, on occasion, arbitrary and there is inevitably cross over; the background, for example, is an aesthetic property of the photograph, but is also rich with semantic information. As a result, the coding used reflects some rationalisation of aesthetic and semantic criteria.