Time, Place, Gender

This is a project I started while attending a portfolio development class at Ifield Community College. It got me thinking about how photography has changed over the years, moving from film to digital, how attitudes to photography have changed and how those attitudes have been influenced by gender and gender stereotypes.

I've been thinking long and hard about what I want to achive with this project, and what I want to say with the photographs I take. So I'm going to share some of my thoughts, to give you an idea of what has inspired me. Consider this page a work in progress. I'll add to it as the project develops and evolves.

Thinking about Mother's Day, let's begin with this...



This portrait of my mother was taken in a Staffordshire studio circa 1949. The photographer, regrettably, is unknown. In her teens she suffered from scarlet fever, which led to rheumatic fever; she was lucky to survive into her 20s. The rheumatic fever left her with a heart defect, what they called a murmur. She died in 1999 a few days after surgery to correct what had become, by that time, a disabling condition. I did not know the girl in the photograph, who was told she could never have children. Fifty years after this photo was taken, my father and I sat beside her in St. George's hospital as the life support machines were switched off.

There is a line in the Leonard Cohen song, Boogie Street:

...we are so lightly here...

And we are. All of us.

If you've seen the film Dead Poet's Society you may remember the scene when they are looking at a photograph of old boys. Keating, played by Robin Williams, says to his class:

They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils...

He his message is simple: carpe diem – seize the day.

A photograph seizes a moment in time. The photograph above seized a moment of my mother's life, and my life now is that much richer for having seen her as she was. The studio where it was taken is, in all probability, long gone, and my mother now is gone, but the photograph remains.

More to follow...