I’ve fought with the notion of seeing my ageing parents as a ‘Project’. It seemed unethical, callous even, and preserving their dignity is a priority to me. But now that I have spent 3 extended periods with them in South Africa, I realise the value of having had my camera as a tool to relate to them.
My initial suggestion of photographing Mum and Dad in their everyday routines was met with suspicion, “Whatever do you want to do that for?” “Who wants to look at photographs of old people?” However they consented, and soon completely ignored the sound of the shutter. I remember a moment when I was lying on the floor with my camera and mum stepped right over me, laundry basket in hand. Though the lighting was fantastic and I really wanted the shot I didn’t get, she was not going to let anything, even a body on the floor, get in the way of her washing!
Over time they became more interested and involved, and what had started as a single idea became a collaborative family process which has drawn a disjointed international family somewhat closer, despite the physical distance. My 24-70mm lens gave me a focus; allowed capture of details that would otherwise have gone unnoticed; enabled me to ask deeper questions of my parents than I would normally have felt comfortable doing and helped me challenge the idea of the perfect family in the portrait of my mind.
Called ‘Plot 148’, it’s comprised of several narratives which don’t yet fit neatly together. Tempting as it is to wait until I have it all figured out; that would be at odds with the reality that family lives are unpredictable works in progress which can never really be tidily packaged and finished with. Now I grapple personally with putting myself ‘out there’ but I’m going to step through that door. There are stories to be told …