10 days, 2 funerals, and 952 photographs

I am back from Michigan where I spent ten days photographing my family. During this time my sisters children experienced two funerals, one the unexpected death of a cousin, and for her stepchildren the loss of their first grandparent. These events took us back and forth between the Detroit area and mid Michigan. I spent more time in the car, but was able to spend some additional time at my parents house this spring break.

My Grammie has moved back into her apartment after six weeks of recovery and therapy after fracturing her pelvis at the beginning of the year. She is having trouble adjusting and at 92 is losing her sight, her hearing, and worse yet her memory. This is making the transition difficult and seems to leave her feeling frustrated and a bit on the cranky side. When I visit she is in such a negative place it becomes a situation where I don’t want to record or remember her in this way.

I continued my everyday project which was great but using my 8x10’ Hobo camera was a bit more difficult than I expected. Lugging around the equipment wasn’t so bad as I am used to feeling like a pack mule from my travels. It was the loading and unloading of the film holders in a perfectly dark area that was my cause for concern. After what seems like numerous minutes I found that my eyes could see a little glowing light on the hot water heater in the basement or discover a small window that wasn’t apparent earlier. I am still hoping that I haven’t fogged my film but I won’t know for sure until my 8x10’ equipment arrives safely back in Arizona and I begin to develop my film.

I really miss my Polaroid type 55 film. It was better than sliced bread, the best of both worlds, instant gratification with an immediate Polaroid positive and a negative that only required a clearing bath. What more can you ask for?

I feel really uncertain with my photography this term. I am sure that this is were I need to be in my process. I believe that I am learning about what I see, what is important to me, and what I enjoy shooting. I know my uncertainty has to do with approaching photography in a whole new direction but I really love taking images that are beautiful.

I had a conversation with a previous mentor a few years ago and he asked me if I could create an image of what I hoped for, what I wished to be true, not what I believed my reality to be. At that time I believed that I could only create an image of someone or something that I knew intimately. I believed that I was creating an image of the reality I knew.

I am sure he asked the question because I have a great desire to create images of hope. Images that show the best of what I believe someone to be. It is a tricky balance to create an image that is honest and values who and what the person is without judgment. I know that I first need to value and honor what I create but I cannot control what others see and how they view my images. So with my family I am careful of how I present them to the world.

I remember hearing as a small child about how some Native Americans wouldn’t let their image be taken because it was stealing a part of them, that somehow they would lose a piece of themselves in the creation of an image.

During that time my Papa was photographing and documenting our voices. I remember the day when I refused to speak into the microphone. I don’t believe that I thought would lose a piece of myself or that the recording was really who I was. I just didn’t want anyone else to be able to make me speak or see me if I didn’t choose to be seen or heard. Since these experiences I became overly sensitive to the taking of something without permission.

This year I have begun to examine this thinking. Images are just the groundwork as our reference. How much of our own experience colors how we interpret an image? Can we ever create reality, documentation, or truth? Every time we put something out there for others to look at with their unique colored glasses there may be threads of clear connection and communication but and at the same time we always interpret what we see in our own unique way.

Historically photography comes with an assumption; it is the camera that creates the image, that it is a mechanical process that is outside of art. It has been attributed to being truthful, of creating documentary images that we believe are impartial. So how can we make images of beauty, truth, and hope? Is it when we all see what we need to see, want to see, or desire to see? How much of our experiences that we carry with us color the images that we view and how important is the artist role in creating the ground work.

10 days of travel, 2 funerals, spending time with my family, and of course taking hundreds of photographs. It is good to be home.