Tulip, My Mother’s Favourite Flower

I photographed the last months with my dying mother. Now I’d like to publish the story as a book and I kindly ask your help.


In September 2009 my mother, Sue Miles, was diagnosed with lung cancer and a brain tumour. While I was trying to come to terms with the fact she was dying, I decided I wanted, or maybe needed, to document the time she had left.

I didn’t want to create a graphic portrayal of her death, it would have been impossible and wrong to focus only on the dying part, but rather I wanted to photograph our final months together.

My mum has the most beautiful blue eyes.

I looked at the things that made her uniquely her, the details in her house I thought I knew so well, the things that would also be gone when she was.

Her love of flowers was a beautiful part of her personality; the house was always full of them, and as I photographed them I realised they were symbolic of what was happening — they represented happiness, love, kindness and generosity, but also isolation, decay, and finally death.

The chairs she never got to use.
All she felt like eating today.

Her house was, like she was, so individual. She had distinctive taste, slightly childlike, loving anything bright and cheerful, especially stripes. I needed to document it all. This project became not just about her, but her home, her life, my place in it, and of course, her beloved cats.

I worry looking at her empty bed, will she ever return from the hospice.
Last night we were told Mum only has a week to live. Today I looked at the tomatoes we planted together and wondered will she ever see them ripen?

I discovered my camera was more than just a tool for taking photographs, it was a way of saying goodbye to my dying mum.

My mum died last night. Looking out of her bedroom window, I realise this is the start of the first day of my life without her.

It’s five years since my mother died and I’ve decided I would like to publish our story.

Tulip has been shown in many exhibitions both around the UK and internationally, and it has had an amazing response from people from all over the world who have chosen to contact me, to share their story and the beautiful moments from their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

It is the reactions of others that has convinced me to share this project in the book format.

‘Tulip’ book dummy.

The stories, and being, and process around the loss of a loved one is forever needed and eternally relevant. I love the idea of my story with my mum becoming a book; a permanent object someone will own, will keep at home and look at and share with others.

Please Support the ‘Tulip’ Photobook Kickstarter Campaign

Publisher Dewi Lewis, recognised as one of the leading photographic publishers in the world, wants to publish Tulip as a hardback photobook, and I’m delighted by this. In order for this to be possible, I must raise part of the funding myself, so I have just launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign has been very popular so far, with lots of backers in the first few days, but we still have a long way to go. I’d love it if more people could join in, please check out my Kickstarter page, where you can pre-order Tulip and secure rewards including postcards, signed prints, a photography workshop and limited edition photographs.

I really hope you can help support this important project to reach it’s target and be realised as a lovely book.

Celine Marchbank is a documentary, editorial & commercial photographer based in London. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Dewi Lewis Publishing is a partnership owned and run by Caroline Warhurst and Dewi Lewis, based in Stockport, England. Follow on Twitter.