This is a blog post I never even considered I’d have to write, and still can’t begin to believe that it’s necessary. I am very shocked and saddened to have to report that my assistant, Tash Lowther has passed away aged just 23, after a life-long battle with Cystic Fibrosis.
Each week I receive numerous emails from people looking to get into photography. Like me, they hope to take their hobby and turn it into a job. Usually I have to reply that I’ve got all the help I need, but as luck would have it (for me, as it turned out), when Tash emailed me, I was on the look out for a new assistant after Dan had gone to University. Tash directed me to a few photos she’d taken, but also to some of her artwork. I could see straight away that she definitely had an artistic flair, and after a rundown of the camera equipment she had, we arranged to meet.
Over a coffee in Tunbridge Wells, I did my best to get across that life as a photographers assistant isn’t all glamour. I was impressed by Tash’s willingness to learn, her drive, ambition and demeanor; I knew straight away that she’d be someone who’d be an asset at a wedding. She expressed a real interest in the more candid, photojournalist style of photography which is what assistants generally need to excel at. Tash was eager to come along and get started, so we first worked together at Lisa and John’s wedding – the main image attached is just a quick lighting test shot from that very first wedding – Tash usually made me delete them as she hated standing in for me!! luckily one survived.
We developed a great working relationship over the course of the next year and a half. There are numerous aspects and tasks to being a wedding photographer. Some of these can be learnt – I taught Tash what I could – the more technical camera-craft, using off camera flash, but also the flow of the wedding day, where you need to be and when and anticipating what’s going to happen.
What I didn’t need to teach her though, was the creative side of things – things like composition and telling the story of the wedding day, and capturing emotions. Tash had an amazing photographic eye and was taking stunning photographs even on that very first wedding. Below this post, I’ve attached some of her images that I’d already proudly blogged as part of the weddings we’d covered together.
In the odd break during the day, we chatted about photography, but also random stuff – we both shared a love of dogs for a start. Tash was due to go on holiday with her boyfriend Grant to Canada in September – I spent plenty of time boring her with stories about my bear, moose and wolf sightings but also recommending places to stay and things to go and see. Alberta is a landscape photographers dream so I was so disappointed for her (and Grant of course) when the trip had to be postponed due to her hospitalization. It was only at this stage that Tash told me about her illness – she didn’t want any special treatment and I certainly never had any cause to give it to her. She was always positive, happy and great to chat with.
We worked together on two more weddings after that. At the end of October, we covered Teresa and Mike’s wedding at Penshurst Place, then Claire and Simon’s wedding at West Heath School. Once I’d finished the last wedding, I emailed Tash the link to the gallery so she could see some of her photos taking pride of place in a real wedding gallery, plus my usual bit of feedback (which to be honest was getting smaller and smaller as she was just getting better with each wedding) and she let me know that unfortunately she’d been hospitalized again, but was fortunately now out and at home recovering.
I thought about Tash a few days ago – I’d need to let her know when I next needed her and put it on my ‘to do’ list for after the Christmas break. To say I was shocked when I logged on to Facebook and started flicking through the news feed is an understatement. Unfortunately, the lung transplant that Tash so suddenly and desperately needed didn’t come through in time. In death though, she herself was able to change the lives of a number of other people through organ donation. Tash’s family are urging anyone who isn’t registered as an organ donor to please sign up.
Also, if anyone would like to donate money in Tash’s memory to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the JustGiving link can be found here
In reality, Tash and I crossed paths for a few hours every couple of Saturdays, so my shock and upset is absolutely nothing compared to that of her family, boyfriend and friends. The outpouring of emotion, but also joy at such a well-lived life, and the love for her, was plain to see.
My thoughts and deepest condolences are with her loved ones. RIP.
All images copyright David Burke Photography 2016