My father was my Dad.
You will find out a bit about him through the images in this piece. You will know that he was very important to me from the very existence of the work.
My Father’s Things
My father died the day after his 92nd birthday.
After the initial weeks of grieving the realisation grew as to how much I was missing photographing him. Taking photographs has long been a way for me to cope with upset and adversity, as well as to rejoice in people and places.
I began taking photographs of his things and that both kept me near to him and prepared me for the clearing away of his possessions. Over the following nine months I photographed everything that he had left behind at the hour of his death; all his worldly goods. It was quite a journey.
In my exploration of his world I came across things that I had expected to find – e.g. his clothes, birthday cards and many, many books – and other items that were a surprise e.g. notes written to me and my siblings, early paintings and, yes, his ActiumPlus. The resulting photographic series, ‘My Father’s Things’, comprises 9000+ images, many of them surprisingly beautiful.
Although it is a depiction of a single person’s property, this body of work has a universality. Having to sort out the things belonging to one’s deceased loved ones is an experience that touches the lives of many. Separated from their surroundings, these images prompt the viewer to contemplate the intrinsic merits of design and utility in the objects we handle and to consider their own possessions; the importance they have attached to them and what will become of them after their own passing. I am thankful that a unique set of circumstances contributed to the successful completion of my project: my geographical and emotional proximity to my father; enjoying 24 hour access to his house and possessions; having an understanding family; and, although working against the clock, sufficient time to photograph everything. Without these, such a task would have been impossible.
My father had amassed an extensive library; almost every book on the shelves contained pages of particular interest bearing his mark. He owned recordings of music from all over the world and artworks, many his own, filled the walls. Looking at these still life images, there is just as much interest in the everyday objects such as a nailbrush, a pair of shoes, the contents of a desk drawer, as in the more unusual – his literary awards and medals.
It is worth saying a bit about how my Dad would have viewed this documentation. I have total confidence that he would be delighted with it and do not have any qualms about making public any, and all, of his possessions. He did not believe in censorship.