One Photo means a huge amount to me, not just my pride and excitement in receiving a CBCA shortlisting, but because it was a very hard book to create. It is a book about dying – the dad has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. His way of coping is to find an analogue camera and take photographs of the things that mean most to him.
His family get upset because he only records objects – not them - but the reader finds, after dad has passed away, that the most important photo to him was the framed family group picture that hung in their hallway.
My first reaction was that this is a huge responsibility – I had to find the right vehicle, a sensitive drawing medium to reflect the nature of the book. I chose mono print because of its sensitive, crumbly line. It is impossible to control exactly how your drawing picks up ink on the reverse. The fact that your drawing is back to front means it looks odd. All these things seemed to resonate with what the dad was suffering, as he progressively lost touch with his mind and his life. That shaky black line had to carry the story, coloured by paint & collage elements digitally layered underneath. I came to understand the real impact of Ross’s story philosophy as I undertook my drawing research.
I spent the English summer of 2015 with my mum in our family home, drawing the cosy years of clutter that have surrounded her since we all lived there. The patterns, fabrics, surfaces that we see every day as children must get embedded into our long term memory. They were the constant background of our growing up. If you were today to see a photo of the wallpaper, kitchen work surface, curtains you had when you were little I think it would unlock a treasure trove of stories you thought you had forgotten. Mum’s house was like that.
Even though dad had died 10 years before, she still kept his aftershave bottles on the bathroom shelf. Also his carefully ordered collection of screws, nuts, bolts and tacks in a cupboard drawer. I made a record with my sketchbook and camera of everything important to me in that house, the place where I was born and grew up. Her alarm clock, her neatly tidied bed just after she had got up, the broken things waiting to be fixed in her greenhouse,
I had no idea I wouldn’t see her again. She died suddenly from a stroke 3 months later. Although this is horribly sad for me – I also feel lucky that I had a reason to make all those drawings and spend all that special time with her. It is some other family’s house now – everything is changed, but the memories are there in this one book.