When my Great Aunt Marg passed away at 97 a few weeks ago I was left with frustration and grief. Although her passing wasn’t a sudden event, her death left very strange feelings.
Unfortunately, as I was finding my mind and myself, she was loosing hers through dementia. It’s a very hard road. As people who’ve experienced it can understand, caring for someone who recognizes you less and less by each visit is excruciating.
We were close when I was young but knowing that we’d be closer now is what hits hardest. I really wish I had the chance to talk to her about her life. I wish I was older when she was still “there”. I wish I could have experienced her mischievous and incredibly sharp self.
I was luckily able to find a little comfort in her photo albums however. They ranged in format, and spanned over 90 years, but their contents were incredibly humbling. This to me is the power of photography.
Photos like these are what inspire me to shoot the most. There are moments that pass in front of your camera that you create, there are moments you influence, and there are moments of pure “murph” (anything that can happen, will happen). Each of these moments is incredibly fleeting, can never happen again, and is impossible to recreate. What you choose to do in that moment - through reflex or thought - creates something beautifully simple yet unbelievably complex. Everything that’s ever happened in the photographers life influences the creation of it. It is a window back to somewhere, somewhen and/or someone. It’s a glimpse into the mind of the person who took it and what’s important to them. Commissioned or personal, premeditated or spontaneous, a photo is always just that; a window.
Why am I so drawn to the photos in this album? As a photographer, that concept of impact is something that keeps me up at night and something that gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s something I ask myself quite a lot. What actually makes a great photo a great photo? A TED TALK summarized it best for me. It applies to every form of “art”. Simply put, it’s the three “H”s: heart, head, and hands.
Heart describes the passion for your craft and the project/subject matter.
Head summarizes thought. It has to mean something. It has to stimulate the viewer in some way.
Hands summarizes the visual. It must have the signs of a craftsman (choices of light, composition, timing, post production etc).
Seeing these photos my Great Aunt kept made me think so much. Of course, photography is subjective, but that’s what makes it so incredibly romantic. We get to put our own stamp on moments in time. The choices we make in the creation of that photo are immortal. It’s that pressure that makes me push my own work as far as I can. We owe it to what is in front of our camera to do our very very best. We must do that moment justice.
My biggest goal is that one day, someone will keep a photo of mine in a collection like the one my Great Aunt kept. I hope you enjoy looking back through my favourite photos from my Great Aunt Marg’s collection of the things she wanted to remember.