Saying goodbye to ghosts…

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After a week in Rome I feel like it’s time to go, it’s been a week of letting stuff go, thinking heavily about the past, reliving it. It’s time to leave, and to leave the memories behind.

It was lovely to experience the memories, revisit past places, remember things I didn’t know I still remembered, but I can feel it’s taking its toll a bit today. I know I’m leaving, so in a way I suppose I feel like I’m leaving parts of my mum here without me, like I should stay and think about her, keep the memories company. Like leaving here is really leaving her. I can feel her all around here, I think about her constantly, things we did, little things that happened, I don’t want to desert all this, and desert her memory. It sounds a bit mad, but kind of makes sense in my head, but I know it’s not logical. She’s not here anymore, I know that, but all the memories here are happy ones, and nearly all the ones I remember in London are still mainly all about her illness, here is different, here she was happy and doing something she enjoyed, and so was I.

There were so many things I would have liked to chat to my mum about my time here, and that’s still a sad part of all this, that she’s never going to be around for another chat, but I think I’ve got used to it now, or getting more used to it then ever, though your brain never really learns to switch off that part where you think for a split second ‘oh I’ll ask her that’, it just hits you quicker than it used to that you can’t.

There were many ghosts here, but perhaps it’s about time to say goodbye, or at least arrivederci…I’m off for a holiday!

x

 

Wanderings.

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Last night wandering around Foro Italico, the place I spent lots of my childhood playing and hanging out with friends, I felt like I was in an empty film set, all the actors had left. All that remained were traces of a former life. An empty feeling, not a sad one, just memories of that time. I looked over into the running track and saw groups of young Italian kids hanging out, I kind of expected to see myself. I couldn’t quite work out how I was feelings, it was like some kind of jealously for those kids,  jealous of their life, that care free lifestyle I once had. Living in a beautiful warm country, happy, content, with their mum around, I wanted that again, I wanted to go back to that time and never leave. Life wouldn’t get much better than this time, as a kid you don’t realise that, you’ll angry and frustrated at times, want to be older and have more freedom etc etc, but really it’s the other way. I’d be quite happy going back into that life as an 10 year old in Rome and never leave. Life as an adult is pretty disappointing and hard, being a child was easy. We spend our lives as children wishing we were older, and as an adult wishing we were younger. The ‘human condition’ (I hate that expression!) is fucked, it’s like we are born to make ourselves miserable, always wanted something else, never content, it’s shite but it’s hard to get out of that pattern, I’m trying, god knows I am…

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I remember as a child picking up a just fallen pinecone from this tree to take home, when dozens of Earwigs came racing out, I screamed and drop it and ran away, my mum thought it was hilarious. Obviously I didn’t at the time, but was a lovely memory to experience when I saw this tree still there.

Right back in that moment.

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As I wait for the plane doors to open at Fiumicino airport in Rome, I feel the same sense of excitement I did back in 1988 aged 8 years old, waiting with my mum for the doors to open to the first foreign country I had ever visited.

As the doors opened today I felt the hot breeze on my face like I did back then and I was right back in that moment in 1988. Standing on the airplane stairs walking down the steps with my mum right by me, feeling that hot air like I had never felt before. The smells of the airport were the same, and that along with this heat made many lost memories flood back. Things I didn’t know I still remembered.

The airport looked exactly the same, still as chaotic and as disorganized, it was quite fitting to wait as long for my bags as we did in 1988. I suppose many things don’t change, which is quite nice really.

On route to Ponte Milvio, the neighbourhood we lived in back then, where I’m staying this time too, I remembered so much of Rome I didn’t think I would. I left 25 years ago, I assumed I wouldn’t remember much, but I do. I suppose a city like this doesn’t change, 25 years is nothing to a city as old as Rome.

Life here seems so similar, the smells, the tastes in the air. On my first wander around my old neighbourhood that evening it was like I was living there again, the smell of our bakery, the scent of familiar Italian food wafting around, it felt homely, like I knew it so well. A few things have changed here, different restaurants, and new bars have popped up, but ultimately it’s the same as when I was here. The water fountain mum used to take us to cool down is still here, the granita stand I loved is still going, our old road with our old flat still there like it was yesterday we lived here.

It didn’t make me sad or long for my mum being here, I thought it might, it actually makes it seem like she is still around. All those familiar things, all these smells and tastes that remind me of her. After the first bite of my spaghetti alle vongole that evening, I was right back sitting in our local restaurant with mum eating it for the first time as a child.

Food is amazing for bringing back memories. Smell and taste are the most powerful senses when it comes to memories for me. They take me back to that very moment, similar to the way music can, they bring me right back to that spot. This keeps happening here, every mouthful of melon sorbet, fresh pomodoros, roasted artichokes, watermelon and I’m eight again experiencing it for the first time, it’s lovely and something I didn’t account for.

I wonder though how do I photograph something like this? Something that doesn’t exist in any physical form. It’s just a feeling, a very personal feeling, how do I show this physically? Perhaps I don’t, I just enjoy it and write about it if I want. I think this trip will be much more about emotions and feelings and not so much photography, but that’s fine, I’m enjoying it so far.

Pilgrimage of grief?

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As I set off for Rome, a place I lived as a child, the place my mother moved us to when I was 8 years old, I’m wondering why I’m coming here? What is it I’m chasing? She’s been dead for four years now, over these painfully long years I always thought I wanted to come back here, but now I’m on route I’m unsure why. Is it to retrace the place we lived, the places we spent happy times together, or is it to cause myself more pain, more upset, more longing she wasn’t dead. What is this pilgrimage of grief all about.

As I continue on this journey after her death, I feel the need again to photograph things; the things I feel, the things that continue to remind me of her. The project I’m doing, and have been doing in someway or another since she died, has food (she was a chef) as the central theme, in the way flowers were the central theme in my Tulip book. So what better place to continue this than in Italy I suppose, that bit at least I know I can look forward to…

More blog posts to follow over the next two weeks of this trip.

A box of pictures, memories, and no real plan (yet)…

That’s the state of my next project so far, but it feels like the right time to do it at least. It’s taken a while, 4 years in the making, so no pressure.

My project, at present, is called “Standing in my mother’s kitchen”, though it has had many other names, I’m sure it will change again. It’s about me retracing my mothers life, in all it’s fascinating parts.

Where to start though? She had many different lives. Described in her obituary as the “Doyenne of the counter-culture and the British restaurant revolution”. It feels like there is too much to tell, perhaps why I feel a bit over whelmed by it all. I suppose I just need to tell it in my words and pictures, it’s not a biography, nor a historical record, it’s my personal journey along her life: the person who brought me into the world, the person I’ve been the closest to for all of my life, and who I watched died 4 years ago. She was there at the start of my life, and I was there at the end of hers, maybe this is some kind of way of linking both our lives together in someway…or maybe that just sounds really wanky!?

Me & Mum when we lived in Rome, 1988 I think.

 

I’ve done recce trips, been through boxes upon boxes of memories & old recipes, read endless old cook books, books about the 60’s & newspaper clippings, spoken to many of my her old friends and chefs, tried to trace others, cooked her recipes, relived old memories through the smells and tastes of her food, driven around empty landscapes, hung out in american diners, thought and thought way too much about what it is I really am doing (still not exactly sure what the outcome will be but maybe that is a good thing), so after all that it just feels like it’s time to do it properly. It would have been my mums 71st birthday last week, so maybe that’s given me a kick up the arse to get on with it. If I write this blog post then it’s not private any more and I’ll need to do what I say I’m doing.

I’m hoping to launch my first Kickstarter campaign in May (so I’ll be hitting you all up for support!), and then leave in June to start what ever it is that I’m doing, somewhere, well the US first, then a few places in Europe and around the UK, trying to tell a story somehow, in someway…

 

Some of the hundreds of photos I have from across her life.
Her childhood in America, 1950s
Sue + Dad LA c.'60
My grandparents in LA, 1950’s
Mum, with her mate Paul, at what may have been the Sgt Peppers shoot.

 

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Recipes & restaurant reviews

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My first attempt at Tarte Tatin, it got better after this…
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Some of my inheritance.
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Mums kitchen.

 

Tranquility

I recently had the pleasure of photographing Tim Andrews for his portrait series ‘Over The Hill’. He’s been photographed by over 300 invited photographers since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. See the project here: Over the Hill

He has asked some of the biggest names in the business to photograph him, so when his invite came in I felt very honoured to have been asked and excited about what I could do that would be different to the rest. I looked at many of the images on his site and I admit I slightly panicked, some are very theatrical and elaborate, not at all how I photograph. I then calmed down and thought about what I wanted to do in my style. My thing is natural images of people in their own environments. So I was very happy when Tim opened his front door to his beautiful home in Brighton, I could have shot in any room really. The nerves of photographing someone whom has been previously photographed by 334 other great photographers, I was no.335, all faded away. I had a lovely morning chatting with him in his sitting room whilst he tackled a, what seemed to be near impossible, jigsaw. We chatted about loss, marriage, possessions and Wings! After the shoot came to its natural conclusion he made us some very tasty scrambled eggs, just like the ones my mum used to.

His title for my image is Tranquility, which perfectly sums up our day. Thank you Tim.

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