Yesterday I went to the funeral and thanksgiving service for Richard Hanson, at Christ Church, Pitsmoor. Richard died at the age of 46. He was a lovely man, who I had come to know in the last few years. He worked as a photographer, and specialised in photographing for charities such as TearFund in parts of the world where terrible stories of need and suffering needed to be told. His photographic work was powerful, moving, and beautiful.
The service yesterday was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man. The church was completely full, and it was decorated with some of Richard’s trademark flowery shirts, hanging from the pillars. Many men in the audience wore similarly colourful shirts in memory of Richard.
There were moving and funny tributes to Richard, given by his friends and family. These spoke of his compassion, his talent, his deep love for his family, his strong Christian faith, and his great sense of humour. A video made by Richard’s children, Jess and Isaac, was played, in which photographs from his life were set to Coldplay’s song, ‘Yellow’. Richard’s wife, Ingrid, had written and recorded a moving and powerful poem for Richard titled ‘Because’, and this was played. A slideshow of Richard’s professional images was screened, showcasing some of his amazing work from all over the world.
Richard was intimately involved in the life of his community in Sheffield, and that of his church. He supported and gave his time to a number of community groups, including ASSIST, an organisation which supports asylum seekers. In one of my early meetings with Richard he gave me a copy of the book he had produced with the Pakistani Advice and Community Association and the Page Hall Community Association. In Page Hall :: Inside Out Richard told the story of the Page Hall area of Sheffield and its residents through photos and interviews. Like all of Richard’s work it is a powerful and intensely human document, which respects the dignity of its subjects, and attempts to tell the truths of diverse lives.
Richard cared deeply about disadvantage in our city and the world, and acted to try and help to the best of his ability. He was undoubtedly motivated by a profound love for humanity, and sustained through difficult times by his faith. Several people yesterday spoke about how even in his last painful months, Richard’s strength of character and the generosity of his spirit shone through his suffering as he still reached out to others.
Yesterday Christ Church was filled with people who loved Richard. It was a deeply sad occasion; it was also a testament to a too-short life, but one lived to the full, and with love.
To see some of Richard’s photographic work, visit: http://www.hansonphoto.co.uk/