Create a set of still life pictures showing traces of life without using people.
My mother Audrey stayed with me from mid-March 2020 for nearly three months. The decision to move her here from home was taken quickly leaving her little time to pack. But nevertheless, every effort was made to make her feel at home during lockdown. The images below record those small items which, to a 97-year-old, during such a frightening period, seemed to mean so much to her.
Audrey’s world during Lockdown
The work of Nigel Shafran had a significant influence on me. I had not previously considered the idea of self-absented portraiture; that you could reveal characteristics of somebody by showing peripheral aspects of their lives. In Shafran’s case, he recorded his washing-up to provide an insight into his domestic and dietary arrangements.
What struck me during Audrey’s stay here was the seeming importance she places in small insignificant objects. As Tina Campt observes:
Attending to the infra-ordinary and the quotidian reveals why the trivial, the mundane, or the banal are in fact essential to the lives of the dispossessed (1:8)
I therefore decided to photograph those small, every day objects that mean so much to my mother in terms of remembering her domestic roots.
The brief poses a question as to the formality and quality of the images to be presented. Perhaps iPhone images reflecting vernacular or transient circumstances or Shafranesque high-quality imagery (not that I think Nigel Shafran’s images are particularly high quality). Yes, Audrey’s stay with me was probably temporary, but nevertheless the images record an important and unique period in our lives. I, therefore, determined to make photographs of the highest quality possible.
(1) Campt, T., 2017. Listening To Images. 1st ed. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, p.4.