I think my project is about love, illness, death and loss.
As we progress in to the module Informing Contexts it is time to gather my thoughts on where my project goes next. My wife, princess, soulmate and best friend dies in Switzerland on January 27th in an assisted suicide she wanted after a long chronic illness with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a beautiful way to die. I desperately miss her as we spoke several times a day for the last forty years and with humour, love, interest and challenge. The project arose initially out of Cemre’s and Jesse’s guidance that my landscape project ideas were banal, insignificant and derivative of things that had been done before. Cemre asked ‘did I have any pain in my life’ and I said ‘oh boy yes.’
Over the last year I have pointed the camera at myself as I experienced the various emotions that go with living with someone who is chronically ill. These emotions are magnified with the inability to relieve the pain and suffering of the one I love and seeing her get worse despite every effort to help. As the year progressed Karen became part of the project. She regularly reviewed the portfolio and towards the end of the year was not only comfortable being photographed but also had ideas herself on what should be photographed.
In September after Karen had taken her decision she wished to end her suffering with the help of Dignitas Cemre asked me if I would be taking a camera. My initial instinct was not to as it felt inappropriate. As I thought about it more I challenged my human feelings and squared up to being a photographer. I could take photographs and they could be helpful to me, my family and others in the future who may wish to understand what happens in situations like the one we faced.
These images are taken in the final days of the life of my princess. I am still struggling to look at them and understand. I still believe she will be here again to talk to.
As a photographer I now need to gather these images and those that have gone before and those that follow in to my FMP to tell a story of love, illness, death and loss.
The above images are taken moments before my princess died. It is only now I can comprehend how brave and strong her decision to end her life in this way was. In our daily battle with the disease she made it sound so obvious and straightforward. There is a lot still for me to resolve in my own head. As a photographer the challenge is now to distill this in to something meaningful and useful while I am still working through the many conflicting thoughts that arise.
Works by Nan Goldin, Charles Latham, Elena Brotherus, Jo Spence, Rosy Martin and Cristina Nuñez are all informing my work. David Heath and Alex Soth have captured my interest as photographers who get close to painting in the way they capture people. Ivor Prickett recent works on the end of the Caliphate also come to mind. They are all great influences and the challenge now is to assimilate these influences in to a signature and style of my own.
I am also interested in what photographs do to us and how they play with memory. These images absorb me. Karen when she was five and I did not know her but it expresses so much of what I think about her and her is a similar pose recently.
It is the start of the module. I have some ideas where to go but need challenge and to try some things out.
Let’s get on with it.