A Family Business

Inside a seventh generation family business of funeral directors who in 2019 celebrated their 100th anniversary.

In July 2013 I passed WG Miller, a funeral parlour in the London Borough of Islington, on the doorway stood two funeral directors. I stopped and asked to take their picture, the picture shows them, broad smiles on their faces wearing the traditional outfit, dark ties,  white shirts at their feet a couple of springer spaniels. It wasn’t the picture I would conjure up thinking of funeral directors and ever since I wanted to go back and find out who these people were.

Five years later in February 2018 I made my first visit to meet the funeral directors and for the next few years I returned on an almost weekly basis to witness life at a funeral parlour. WG Miller is a family run business which in 2019 celebrated its 100th anniversary. I was there that day documenting the celebration, the guests as you would expect a mix of family, people working in the funeral business and clergy. The images made a fine contrast to those taken at the parlour during their working hours.

Since then I have been sitting on these images eager to compile and design them in a book to illustrate life of a London funeral parlour introducing the funeral director as a person doing a job society rarely acknowledges. My preconceived idea of a funeral director as a sombre, clad in black, somewhat pale, serious and perhaps humourless character was, as I quickly discovered, never met. Gallows humour was apparent from the first moment I set foot into their office, as was a professional seriousness when dealing with the bereaved.

The story here is about the people doing a job few ever talk or think about, until it becomes a necessity. Over time, and after initial hesitation given the sensitivity of their business, I gained full trust and access and was welcomed into their midst as one of their own.