Transparency – notes on a photo-project

I 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 4 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 everyday routines was met with suspicion.

  “Whatever do you want to do that for?”

“Who wants to look at photographs of old people?”, they asked.

However they consented. I remember a moment when I was lying on the floor with my camera and mum stepped right over me. I didn’t get the shot I wanted in that ‘perfect’ light. However this was the moment that signalled they were no longer self-conscious of my camera and anything I took henceforth would be unforced and natural. I’d say that in a project of this kind, capturing the ‘real’ moments and expressions is more important than getting the lighting just right (though of course having both coincide is pure magic!)

Over time my parents became more interested, and what started as a solitary idea became a collaborative family process which has drawn a disjointed international family 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’, this body of work comprises several narratives which are revealing themselves as I continue to explore.

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