DID YOUR PARENTS SEE YOU? Did they love you? Thoughts by a photographer on the broken bond between parents and children. How was growing up for you?
My childhood was one of fear and unhappiness. My father is a narcissist and a bully, my mother is silent. Does a part of me seek their love, still? When I work with ordinary families I am curious, in awe of their love, comparing their present to my childhood. I find I look at the children a lot, they all seem so perfectly imperfect and interesting and I feel they need to see themselves how I see them. I see beauty and wisdom in young ones. They remind me to be humble.
I photograph families and some is commercial work, some are personal projects. I have been thinking about why I have chosen families as a project this year. The photo here is one I made this week to try and construct memories and my feelings. What does it say to you? Photography is essentially about the act of observation, so what am I hoping to witness when I photograph you? I do not capture reality, truthS - yes plural. I feel that if I photograph people they are ephemeral - I witness a moment and then it changes. We are not static. During a shoot you may feel happy, sad, have a disagreement, make -up. You see there are lots of versions of you and they are all true in that moment.
So if you are in the photograph so am I. I have a history, beliefs and I will react to you during a shoot. When my work exhibits I say - that is my soul on the wall. To make something meaningful and “artistic” it is necessary to pull my heart out and think about me. This week I went home, back to my childhood. I thought it is a new year and a new project ” Where should I begin?” With myself. I need to think about where I am in the frame before I look at you. To separate us - where do we join and separate? Am I telling my story or yours, or both? To build some self awareness is my way.
If you have decided that I am barking; pause. Why do wedding photographers do weddings or newborn photographers do babies? If they answer, “Because it’s lucrative!” ask whether you really want a shallow person to capture your most intimate moments. Thought not. Maybe someone who reflects about her work will produce images of you that feel real and validate you and your relationships.
Have your kids left home yet? Advice needed.
My daughter is 18 and planning which Uni to go to. She is looking at London mostly. So I am thinking about her leaving home a lot, no messy bedroom, a lot less laundry, can she feed herself healthily and find her way around a big city and stay safe? The mind boggles! How quiet will it be when she has gone ( in a bad way I mean)? When they are little we dream of a childfree life again, sleep, a lack of domestic drudgery and worry. Now it may become a reality it does not look so rosy. How fickle I am.
More worryingly she recently gave a verdict ( unsolicited) on my parenting skills. Now I did not have good role models growing up and I made mothering up as I went along. These were my rules: don’t lie to her; ask her opinion; be respectful; if I get it wrong say sorry and try a different way; give lots of physical affection and time and make space for her in my life. Her verdict, ” You were rubbish, not enough rules, you are a hippie,” ( bohemian please). Gosh the most scathing performance review ever! I always felt I had rather tried hard so I didn’t expect that. Now if this was any other job I’d have to choose:
1. Leave job
2. Ask for help to improve skills
Well she is an adult so I feel it is a bit late to start again but I do feel like leaving this mother job. I did admit to being a bit of a fuck up when she questioned me. Amazing how a kid can lower the self esteem ( remember I struggle with feeling worthy and valuable) so now what?
You know why I photograph families? I am trying to figure them out!
Over to you!
Being Brave for £100 a Month!
18 months ago I became freelance. This shot was the shoot that kicked my butt, an image from it hung in the Getty Gallery in London (with Martin Parr) and another went to America. I awoke one morning and had an unstoppable need to leap to a new life and freewill on an adventure. I had just done something spectacular and surprised myself by producing work that was good enough to hang with great photographers. Do you let those moments pass you by? Fear change? Am I brave because I felt scared but did it anyway? A client’s blog caught my attention this week, she was watching a TED talk,
“… of one of the influencers I follow, Harriet Minter, stopped me in my tracks and challenged my thinking. She was delivering a TED talk titled “Proceed until Apprehended” which broadly lands the message that as women we often wait to be invited or seek permission to do the things we want to do rather than jumping in feet first and chasing the dream.” Jodie Salt of The Violet Society.
I too sought permission and hunted for people who would support me but in the end I chose all alone, because those close to me dislike change and made me feel fool hardy. They asked what if I failed, was it wise to give up job security and a pension, was I prepared to pay the price of freedom? Well yes I fucking was - because I did not want to give up my dream. I think that people who stop dreaming die a little bit everyday.
So my husband pays the bills, we are safe and money is quite tight. My photography business is like any new venture - money does not pour in and the first 18 months have been lean. Running a business costs money, in my first tax year at least I was not in debt - WIN! Of course it was wise financially to stay in my job but my comfort zone is a dull place. I kind of figured that with my dreadful abusive childhood I deserved a chance to find out if I am worthless or maybe with more. I wanted more. I had a nine week solo show this summer, I’m doing ok.
There are many things that I gave up: days off; buying clothes ( all my T Shirts and jeans have holes in); my beloved horse riding; coffee that is not home made; eating out…….. all of life’s little luxuries. I barter for yoga, and a few beauty services; and a walk with friends is free. I am determined to remain independent and write a few things off as expenses but it is okay to do without for a while. I am hoping to rejoin the capitalist society I actually live in soon though. Charging my worth is the next step - now that I have realised my worth that is!
The link to Jodie Salt’s blog is below - just in case you wanted to be brave in 10 steps.