IAP Exercise 2.3: Same Model, Different Background


Select a subject for a series of five portraits, varying the locations and backgrounds.


Like most of humanity, I have been in lockdown for the last few weeks. In my case it’s a relatively extreme form of lockdown – I’m shielding my 97-year-old mother – so I haven’t left home for more than six weeks (or is that years?).

Thank goodness for this photography degree! It’s keeping me busy, and I love it. But, like everyone, I’m finding the lack of visual options to be taxing my creativity. It’s not that I don’t have some ideas, I do, but the breadth of ideas is limited and feels samey. So I have been quite stuck with this exercise, which is frustrating.

Having looked at the work of both Harry Callahan and Julian Germain, I decided to produce photographs based on Germain’s series ‘For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness’. I did so for the following reasons.

In Germain’s introduction to his photo book ‘For every minute…’ he quotes the following paragraph from Hans Aarsman:

For every minute you’re angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness is a template model for what critical engagement should try to achieve in our day and age: forget the winners and losers and provide examples of people who operate in a different force field. People who are not grasping, not filled with self-importance and not embittered, people with a profound understanding of who they are and what they stand for, something that cuts across all cultures.

Like Charles Snelling, my mother Audrey lives in Portsmouth. Since lockdown began six weeks ago, I have had the privilege of her staying with me. This is the longest time we have spent together for 45 years. It’s funny you think you know somebody, but it’s not until you spend such an unexpected and extended time together that you get to understand somebody.

Hans Aarsman calls upon us to provide examples of people who operate in a different force field. Well if anyone operates in a different force field, it’s my mother, Audrey. Since being uprooted from her home of 50 years, she has lived here with not a word of complaint. She is so stoic, wise and funny. Her resolute acceptance of her new normal is an example to everybody. Utterly amazing.

I can’t photograph Audrey in her home because she now lives with me. But I wanted to show a glimpse into her new life here. It is so simple. The photographs (only five as requested) depict some of the regular aspects of her daily routine. She likes sleeping! Her early (?) morning breakfast in bed is followed by a bit more sleep. When she surfaces, it’s lunch followed by several crossword puzzles with Gill. The afternoons involve some quiet contemplation, maybe another crossword or perhaps a game of dominoes. After dinner, she likes nothing more than watching cookery competitions on TV.

Personal reflections on the exercise

I’m frustrated. I’ve got so many ideas going around in my mind. But with lack of choice, they seem to keep colliding. So I feel really blocked. I just needed to get this exercise done and out of the way. It’s not good enough. I know that. But it is an honest reflection (in five photographs) of some aspects of my mother’s life now.

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