I am sorry to report that the ‘journey of a photograph’ has endured an unscheduled and lengthy delay under my stewardship. It is time to make amends.
After waiting for over a year for the project to find its way to my corner of the world, a large and clearly well-travelled package arrived at the end of April 2015 and as I excitedly examined its contents I wondered at the vignettes of life this ‘thing’ had witnessed on its journey and the dreams, stories and creative responses it had inspired. I drank it in over several days, picking amongst the imagery and ephemera that it had accumulated, like barnacles on the bottom of ship, adding weight and mass, altering the dynamics of the original form.
It is not a pretty package; it wears its travels wearily and honestly, revealing fragments of the journey as it is opened, and proceeds to spill out its contents unceremoniously, like the entrails of an unceremonious disemboweling. The analogy continues, despite its unpleasantness, as it is then impossible to avoid looking closer at the entrails and wonder at their meaning. It may not be pretty, but it is truly fascinating.
A week or so later in early May my father was diagnosed with cancer. Everything stopped. My ability to wonder ceased.
He passed away within the month. Too late to do anything about the cancers that had been stealthily occupying new territories over the years, we used the last of our time to say the things we now describe as our ‘goodbyes’ and reminisced across history. For this I feel incredibly lucky; many do not get this chance or have not got the words to say their piece.
The package sat aside my desk during the months that followed. I thought little, if anything about it, except maybe a little guilt. I struggled to resume working on personal projects and did nothing for a long time. The package continued to sit aside my desk accusingly.
When I first examined the contents of the package back in April, I had toyed with the idea of making something exquisite – a real feast for the eyes that would rest amongst the photos, letters, postcards and assorted ephemera – something that didn’t follow anything else and hopefully leave others to wonder. I also considered making copies of everything and binding them together in a book. I thought of a few things I might do, all of which died with my father.
The package has since taken on a new significance for me. It no longer represents an opportunity for a creative response or engaging visual addition. It has taken a long time for me to put this into words that come anywhere close to conveying my thoughts. What you are reading right now is the third draft of the fourth attempt. These previous attempts were either ‘too much of’ or ‘not enough of’ something or other, and found their way into the ever growing pile of digitally scrunched up documents that was building up around the trashcan icon on my screen.
I have taken a very different approach to this journey of a photograph. I have decided share a little of my emotions and explain why the project has stalled under my stewardship. I have also added a small picture of my father to the package in order to let him see a little more of the world. All things pass. Pass it on.
Christopher Skinner, Norfolk UK