Telling a story

Viewing The Dad Project

I tried to approach this exercise with an objective mind as it seemed too close to the bone for comfort.  I lost my dad three years ago and the feelings of grief are still quite raw.  I started to think about how lucky Briony Campbell had been to carry out such an intimate project with her dad and ultimately strengthening their relationship.  In her contextual write up, Campbell talks about not having time to plan properly or reflect on the progress of the project.  She also said when the end came she was only just finding her feet.  I thought how wonderful, you had time to find your feet!  I had a phone call to tell me to get to the hospital immediately.  I lived thirty miles away and after a frantic drive down the M6 I was greeted by a nurse who was apologising to me as she came into view.  So reading Campbells account of her dads illness and eventual death made me envious as I had no part in my dads final moments.

The more I read and the more I saw of ‘the dad project’, the more I understood about how difficult it would have been for campbell to document her dads death (i feel like I need to write dad instead of father!) as there are moments in our lives when can do nothing more than live that moment so to put a camera in front of it must have taken great strength or passion.

Obviously this project left me in tears.  I feel like I’ve been on an incredibly emotional journey thats left me with a heavy heart.

Country Doctor

Another photo essay to review was W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Portrait, ‘Country Doctor’.  During this project Smith shadowed the country doctor Dr. Ernest Ceriani, in Kremmling, America, in 1948 and documented his work.  As Ceriani was the only doctor in a 400 sq mile radius, he had a lot of ground to cover and also became a doctor of all types.

Comparison between the two projects

Similarly to Campbells ‘the dad project’, Smith was able to chronicle the emotions of his subjects, tugging at the heart stings of his viewers.  Where campbells project was centred on one sufferer, Smiths project concentrated on one healer but the effects are the same.  We can sense the pain in both sets of photographs and the day to day struggles of the people involved including the photographers them selves.  They were also very emotive projects and this comes across very strongly for both stories.

Where these projects differ is with the photographer in that one was incredibly subjective (Campbell) whereas Smith had scope to be objective in his motives.  Both projects evoke feelings but whilst Campbell was on the inside, Smith was a stranger looking in.

This indicates to me that you don’t need to be one or the other when documenting emotional stories.  How you get there is a your own journey and the end results should represent that.

An ending without and ending

In campbell’s contextual essay she referred to the project as an ending without an ending.  This is quite difficult to decipher given the fact that the story did have an ending so it must have something to do with the photographer herself.  Whether this means no ending to how she feels about the ending is anyones guess.  From my own personal experience of dealing with death, I always felt that although death is final, life goes on.  Campbell’s journey is still ongoing and maybe the end of her dads life was her beginning.



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