Very happy to see my Tulip book a selected winner for the Creative Review Photography Annual. Many fantastic projects on there, so in great company.
My Tulip project was featured in a lovely double page spread in the Family section in The Guardian on Saturday. It was a lovely interview and piece by Homa Khaleeli.
My Tulip project has been selected for the Prix Virginia International Photography Prize for Women, as one of the jury’s choice. I went to the opening of the show in Paris a few days ago, the show is on until Saturday November 12, in Sauroy photographic space, 58 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris. If you’re in the area please take a visit.
So happy to have been selected for this fantastic award, along with all the other beautiful projects.
Really lovely to see my Tulip book named Book of the Week on Photo-Eye. Such a thoughtful and beautiful review by Jordan Sullivan.
Been in a glum mood most of this week, not really knowing why, then I remembered what month it was, October, anniversary of my mum dying. I can feel totally fine, then this time of year happens, it coincides with the season change and assumed it’s that, but seasons changing don’t normally make me want to cry. Mixed with being ill, and when I’m ill (and sure I’m not the only one that thinks this) but when I’m ill I just want my mum to tuck me up in bed and bring me warm food to eat. I’ve also been shooting more, and perhaps the final, recipes of my mums this week, hoping, or at least trying, to bring the project to a close. All these things mixed together helped create a feeling of melancholy. I genuinely feel great at the moment, it’s just the few days before the anniversary it hits me. I’ve written lots about anniversaries, how they just seem to be there to remind us of the sadness we hoped had shifted, and don’t really do anything positive. As the years pass, and it’s six years tomorrow since my mum died, I kind of expect each year for this sadness not to arise so much, but it does, perhaps slightly less each year but still very much there. I admit it is different, it’s not grief anymore, it’s just missing I think. It’s six years since I saw mum, and that number just gets bigger and bigger each year. But now, when I feel like this, I’m actually fine, I think you can feel sad but also fine at the same time. The sadness is something I can identify now, I can feel it and control it. Something I couldn’t do with grief, grief was endless twists and turns.
Last night I was discussing my project with a friend, a very good photographer himself, we were chatting about how I might structure my book about food and writings about grief, he asked if grief was like seasons, I instantly said no, it’s constant, never changing. But after thinking about it of course it’s like seasons! It comes and goes, no real control over it, somethings very sudden transitions, others more a gradual sweeping flow, coming and going as it likes. It’s perfectly compared to seasons, how I missed that is strange. But I’ve realised when I think back to grief I can’t actually remember the exact feelings of when I was in it. I recently read something about this, your mind is kind of protecting you from it. It’s similar to something else I recently read about child birth and how there’s a hormone that releases in a woman’s brain that makes her forget exactly how painful the birth was (or something like that), otherwise you’d never have another baby. I think the forgetting the pain of grief is the same, if you could remember how bad it was you’d never get close to anyone else again for the fear of loosing them and going through all that again. It’s quite amazing and also so logical too, the human mind never fails to amaze me.
So anyway, feeling a bit ill and down this week I decided to shoot some of the remaining recipes of my mums I’ve wanted to try. I spent three days learning to make soufflés, creme brulees, baked pears, salsa verde, gazpacho, french onion soup, and a few other lovely things. Wasn’t sure if it’d make me feel better or worst, but I feel better today so that’s progress. It was actually fun!
Now I’m a Leica Ambassador (!) I thought I should take the beautiful camera out for a test. This week I’ve been housesitting at my Uncle’s house, which is back in my old neighbourhood, right around the corner from my mum’s old house. Very strange at first being back in that area. On the first day I was there I deliberating rode past mums old house, the house where I shoot most of my Tulip project. The front door was open, as it looks like the new owners have started doing building work, I glimpse in and saw the very distinctive floral glass in the bathroom door at the back of the hall. I didn’t feel sad or protective of the place as I used to. This is the first time I’ve properly been passed the house for a look, I hadn’t wanted to before. If I had seen it a year earlier I think it would have upset me. It’s hard to describe why or how a building can hold such sentimental value, when all the things that made it my mums place have gone, I have most of them in my new house. I’m surrounded by her furniture, clothes, kitchen stuff, I use this stuff everyday and it reminds me of her, so why would I still have such emotional attachment to a crumbly old house. I suppose it was where I grew up, years of memories are in there, and sadly it’s where I spent that last year with my mum, her last year. I think my Tulip project gathers more and more meaning for me as time goes on. It’s clear to me now it was not just simply a way to deal with the terrible situation, now it’s a record of a whole time, an era of my life. I can look at it and feel like I’m back in it, whether that’s good or bad I’m not sure.
Passing my mums old house didn’t bring up sad emotions, I was surprised but thankful. I find places can trigger things in me. This whole new project I’m working on about grief and retracing mum’s life is all about emotions, going to places, writing, and just feeling things, really feeling them. That’s what all my trips were about last year, and now I’m struggling to finish the project. Perhaps it’s just not wanting to let it go. It’s the last project about my mum, once that’s done then I suppose I’m admitting she’s really gone. Perhaps that’s why I keep wanting to do more, add to it, travel to other places we did, cook more of her food, find more of her recipes, keep all her stuff in those boxes, control it, keep it private and safe, not wanting to loose anything of it. In one way I really do want to complete this project though, it’s about saying goodbye to grief, and I finally feel like I can, but something is pulling me back in.
Anyway, with my lovely new loaned camera I went for a long walk around Hampstead Heath, a place I spent so much for my childhood, another place that holds so many memories. My brother and I buried mum’s ashes under a beautiful tree up there on her birthday in 2011. When I was really struggling after her death I’d go there, lay under the tree and try to feel close to her. It became a kind of unintended pilgrimage spot, especially around birthdays and anniversaries. I stopped going so much, it was too sad. But I decided to go this day. This time felt really different, similar feelings to glancing into my mums old house, like somethings shifted, somethings changed, nothing is as raw. I’ve felt for some time that I have come out of grief, around the end of last year a shift, but never thought I would ever fully be out of it, to not feel that deep deep sadness is quite something. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about mum, but now I feel in a way I can think about the great things she did, the great things she did for me, the amazing richness she imbedded in me, she taught me what being independent really means, she gave me her fighting spirit, and fundamentally to care. When someone so close to you dies the anger is overwhelming, you really can’t see through it, not for years. Now that’s gone, the feelings of helplessness and apathy have gone with it. Standing at her tree I realised this, these feelings have gone, and now I can see, like really see. I realised how beautiful the tree her ashes are under is, this huge beautiful Silver Birch has gone completely unnoticed by me for years. All the times I had come here I was so inwardly thinking about my misery, I wasn’t looking at the beauty in front of me. From it’s marvellous silver branches covered in glittering bark, to it’s engulfing green canopy above my head, the brightest of green leaves all around, the wondrous lichen growing along all the branches. It feels like mum is part of this tree now, a part of her is in all of it. So I photographed this, with this new camera, I thought it was a worthy and fitting tribute to start here, where it kind of all ended for mum. The beauty of this place is what I will remember from now, not the pain and sadness from before. I came back to the very end to start a new beginning.