No more bodiless hands – our approach to photography by Luke Doyle

Categories: Care and Opinion.

Compassion in Dying steer clear of euphemisms when talking about death. “Our imagery should be no exception to this.”

What are we doing?

Over the past year we’ve spoken to people about what resonates with them when it comes to end-of-life planning.

We learned that people value honesty, and really care about seeing their own experiences reflected. We focused on this when developing our approach to using photography in our new brand.

We will be using photos of real people in everyday situations to accurately represent the people we support.

We want to capture the reality – good days and bad – of the experiences that people share with us. From taking control of end-of-life planning to the real effects of CPR.

Just like the world around us, our photography will only ever be full colour.

What are we not doing?

We’re not using stock photography (unless we need to – more on this later).

We’re definitely not using euphemisms to represent something that’s actually about real life or real people. So no close ups of hands, or images of falling leaves or autumnal trees.

Why are we doing it?

Our new brand is focused on what matters most to the people we support, and amplifying their voices to ensure they are at the centre of their care.

The photography we use needs to reflect this. Stock photography often looks contrived and unnatural.

Our branding research revealed that people valued direct, open language. Euphemisms reinforce the idea that important end-of-life conversations are taboo.

I hate it when people say we lost her – no you haven’t. She died

We steer clear of euphemisms when talking about death. Our imagery should be no exception to this. Dying isn’t a taboo for the people we speak to. It’s not something that needs to be kept secret. So we use real photos of real people when we talk about it.

Rebecca Langley. Rebecca campaigns about the importance of DNACPR decisions.


We work closely with local communities, but we can’t always capture these projects in our photography. Understandably, not everyone wants to have their picture taken. But it’s important that we reflect the diversity of the people we support.

People tell us that without proper representation it’s hard to understand if or how information or support is right for them.

So, when we can’t accurately represent the diversity of the people we work with using our own photography, we use the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age-positive image library. This fantastic library, which is free to use, features a huge range of realistic images of over 50s ‘in a bid to challenge negative and stereotypical views of older age’.

We will also use images of meaningful objects to illustrate what matters to each person we photograph. These snapshots of people’s lives capture the little and big things that are important and make each individual who they are.

Roger’s shelf, with pictures of his sons, and the things that are important to him – Buddhism and mountains

What are we hoping for?

At Compassion in Dying we amplify people’s voices, shift attitudes and drive changes to the healthcare system so people’s end-of-life decisions are heard, understood and respected when it matters most.

Roger and his grandson Ethan in Roger’s garden.

Showing the real lives of the people we support – their experiences and what matters to them – is part of this.

We hope that by taking a straightforward approach to our photography we’ll encourage more people to have honest conversations about death and dying, and record their wishes.

Death is something that will happen to all of us. So let’s try to represent the myriad experiences of people in a way that’s relatable and human.


This blog is republished from Compassion in Dying  with permission. 


  1. Rod MacLeod

    I’m so pleased to read this! Thank you so much for doing this. I have felt for a very long time that the bodiless hands should be outlawed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *