© Photo courtesy of The Chronicle Herald/Ted Pritchard
Photographer Andrew Danson Danushevsky, now a resident of Grand Falls-Windsor, stands in front of his latest exhibit “An Ernest Price: 150 Grave Stories from Halifax,” which is currently on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Danson photographed all 150 gravesites of Titanic victims located in three Halifax cemeteries over several years. This weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the disaster.
One hundred and fifty lives, boiled down to a single photograph of each of their gravestones, occupy a wall 33 feet long, and six and a half feet high.
A staggering thought, considering the 150 gravestones featured in photographer Andrew Danson Danushevsky's exhibit, titled "An Ernest Price," represents a mere ten per cent of the lives lost in one of the largest navel disasters in human history – the sinking of the Titanic.
This weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the disaster, which saw an estimated 1,500 lives lost to the icy north Atlantic waters when the "unsinkable" ship met it's untimely end.
"An Ernest Price: 150 Grave Stories from Halifax" is currently on display in the foyer of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax to mark the grim milestone.
Danson is now a resident of Grand Falls-Windsor, but was living in Halifax when he decided in 2008 to begin documenting the 150 grave sites occupied by Titanic victims sprawled across three Halifax cemeteries – the largest concentration of victims buried in a single area.
"I was born by the sea," explained Danson. "I was born on the English Channel in Bournemouth, England, and I came (to Canada) on a ship at the end of the Second World War with my mother, who was a British war bride."
Danson said he has crossed the Atlantic on ships three other times in his life.
"I find myself really connected to the sea."
Danson said when he began photographing the graves, he was surprised to see how many were unidentified – with only a number identifying the remains beneath.
"I was more interested in ordinary people, and some of the true heroes were ordinary people. The crew for example...they knew the ship was going down but they stayed in the engine room and tried to keep the boat afloat so as many people as possible could get off," said Danson, adding that many of the identified grave sites belonged to crew members.
Sadly, during the period of time Danson spent photographing the graves, both his parents passed away, which he said caused the project to become very personal to him.
"It became kind of a mourning process for me, as well as a way of honouring the people who perished on the Titanic," he said.
The young man from London
Danson said he wanted to approach the project not just from a historical perspective, but from a poetic and artistic perspective as well – something that is captured by the title of the exhibit.
"An Ernest Price," Danson said, not only refers to the ultimate price paid by the 1,500 victims, but to an actual person who perished in the disaster.
"One of the graves belonged to a 17-year-old guy from London, a barman, and his name was Ernest Price," said Danson. "It wasn't until I came across his grave that it stuck with me, and I thought about the name and the different levels of meaning."
Danson speculates on Price's life with the little knowledge he has about the young man who met a tragic end far too soon.
"When Ernest Price's body was found he was wearing a waistcoat with the initials GPO on it, which obviously aren't his initials," mused Danson. "Perhaps the initials belonged to someone else that had given (the garment) to him, or maybe he bought it second hand. GPO were also the initials for the post office in London, so it could have been from that."
Danson's exhibit will be on display in Halifax until July, but he said he's considered the possibility of displaying it in Grand Falls-Windsor if circumstances allow it.
Knowing his piece includes only a fraction of the graves of Titanic victims, the Advertiser asked Danson if he plans on adding to it in the future.
"No," he said. "I think the project is complete."