Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Growing old in front of the camera

There was a book published last year which really made an impression on me. Mother and Father by Paddy Summerfield is a poignant documentation of the photographer's elderly parents and their last decade of life together. Mostly shot through the window of their home, the black and white photographs show the couple either working or relaxing in their garden, together yet separate in that companionable way people have after a lifetime spent together, the mother often lost in her own private world, the father tenderly attentive. These are quiet, unspectacular photographs made with love and concern, so distant from the frantic posturing and self regard of much of the contemporary photography world. According to critic Sean O'Hagan they are "a reminder of the power of a certain kind of photographic attentiveness that has become increasingly hard to find in an age of manipulated image-making." You can read his review here.

  All photographs above by Paddy Summerfield

Intensely personal yet with universal appeal at the same time, they set me thinking about my own parents. My mother died last year, yet I have few photographs of her in her final years as she steadfastly refused to have her picture taken. I suspect this is quite a common occurrence and that in comparison to the large numbers of photographs taken of a person in the span of their lifetime, their old age probably remains sparsely documented. Perhaps the odd snap taken with family at Christmas or other celebrations, but the day to day minutiae of their lives are not often deemed worthy or interesting subjects. 

It is too late now for me to portray my parent's life together - the final reminder I have of my mother is a photograph of her sitting in the sun in the hospital garden, taken a couple of weeks before she died when she was too ill to notice or mind that I had taken a picture......

No comments:

Post a Comment