“Your a photographer, where is your camera?!” Was my brothers reaction to me being camera less today, but in fact I quite like it.
I started the proper clearing out of my mums house on Monday and kept having this nagging doubt that I should be documenting it, like I’m missing an opportunities to preserve her life in someway, like I can never get her house back, I need to record it. But why do I think that taking a sterile photograph of something is the only way to remember it? It’s not. I’ll always remember the warmth my mother’s house had, the comfortable feeling you got when you stepped in, the feeling you were home no matter how many years you had not lived there for, the sense that everything was going to be ok. I can’t take a picture of that and why would I try? To stick in a photo series and enter in to a meaningless photography competition or have an exhibition? no thanks. Why do documentary photographers (and I am so guilty of this) want to record every bloody detail of someones life or worst their own. This is turning into a rant, not sure why, I’m not feeling angry or anything. In fact I think I probably had one of the best days I have had in the last 2 years.
I had an amazing afternoon. After a (long) hour with my bereavement councillor, I decided to walk over to Hampstead Heath and visit my mum’s ashes. As soon as I came out of the councillors I felt brilliant, like someone had vacuumed out all the shite that was going on in my head. I walked over the hills of the Heath listening to really loud old rock and roll songs that had connections to my mum. Everything felt good, like I was on the best drug I have ever taken, it was like something was telling me everything was going to be ok. The Heath looked more beautiful than I think I had ever seen it, the colour of the clouds and the grass together were like walking through a Turner painting. There was no one there, but so much wildlife around. A bright red-headed woodpecker flew right in front of me. After my walk I laid under the tree where my mum’s ashes are buried, it’s this beautiful Silver Birch tree, with huge cascading branches reaching all the way down. I lay at the base of the tree, looking up through the branches, and felt a kind of warmth I used to get from my mum, it was as if the branches were hugging me, I felt safe, it was like I was in the womb or something (not that I remember much of that time), but it was fucking mental, I have never felt an emotion like that. My councillor told me I may start experiences different emotions, ones I have never felt before, and fuck she is right. My emotions and general mental heath have been in a state of mute or numbness for so long, way before my mum even got ill, but now it is like something is finally awakening them. As I was laying there a dog ran up and licked my face, her owner shouted over “Just seeing if you are alive, are you ok?” I really was, I really felt more alive than ever.
The epiphany today was realising I had no desire to take a photograph of what I saw or what I felt. A photograph could not even come close to show the emotions I was feeling. God this sounds all a bit wankey, but I am not trying to be all arty and conceptual, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I am not.
Last night I went to a talk of one of my oldest friends mum, Phyllida Barlow, at Tate Britain. Hearing her talk about her sculpture work was so inspiring. She doesn’t make sculptures about ideas or concepts, they are about the action of making the pieces, about touching things, feeling the materials and making a mark and an object that will exist because of what you did (well that’s what I got from it). It made me start thinking again about photography and how I feel I’m missing out on something. It’s a robotic action, you press a button, you don’t touch what you are photographing, to me that’s not enough. I want to get dirty, roll around in nature, dip my feet into cold water, not press a button while watching someone else do it. Sometimes I struggle to be a documentary photographer, I hate peering into other people’s lives, it feels rude and voyeuristic. I want my work to mean something, but not have to do that by telling it through other people’s lives. Man I don’t really know what I am saying, I’m not saying that I don’t want to work with photography, just that it’s perhaps not enough, I need more senses stimulated. I need a studio so I can throw shite around and see what happens…then I’ll probably decide I hate it.
I did a project years ago about the marks in the land people make unintentionally, I think it was the start of a much bigger project I should pursue, I’m going to dig it out and see where I can go from that.