I would like to end this course with an assignment where I reflect on a topic directly related to my feelings. I do not want to make a long theoretical introduction as in previous works, presenting to the reader a long reasoning of motivations, I will simply say, as a preamble, that this series wants to be a tribute to my mother, enclosed for more than three years, in the pain and forgetfulness of a degenerative disease that initially robbed her ability to speak and progressively has deteriorated the rest of her faculties.
Due to the illness of both my mother and my father, every fortnight I have to spend the Fridays night at her home to take care of them while they sleep. When I arrive at their home, after my labour day, my parents are already lying down and the house is silent, a moment that I take to go through the rooms evoking memories of my childhood and observing some of the objects that were part of the everyday landscape of my mother.
Now that they have gone to sleep, in the silence of the twilight, some of these objects seem to want to awaken for a moment of that lethargy in which they too are about to fall, and remind me for an instant their/her story, tell me about their past when they were part of my mother’s daily life. Some will do so with the nostalgia of what is definitely lost, while others living in the present seem to sketch a grimace while they strive to navigate the turbulent waters of my mother’s deteriorated memory…
Although my mother has been mentally absent for many months and no conversation is possible with her nowadays, in my diary I collected the notes of each photo as if I were in a dialogue with her. I do not want to accompany each of the photos with an exhaustive explanation, reproducing entirely my annotations, but I choose to include only a sentence or paragraph that I think concentrates the meaning of the scene or gives some clue to its reading.
Outside the family realm, the occasional viewer will never get the complete meaning of pictures, and the texts in no way reveal the ultimate significance of each photograph, but in each image included in the series there is a fragment of past dreams and present agonies of my mother. Some of these pictures are fragments of my mother past, sites of remembrance that have a strong connection to her memory even though she is not capable of remember none of these things.
The poet Jorge Manrique said that ” Our lives are fated as the rivers that gather downward to the sea, we know as Death”, metaphor that could be completed by adding the endless yearnings, frustrations, joys and desperations that dragged by the current will remain forgotten forever in the riverbed or those that with better fortune will arrive at a shore where perhaps somebody will one day find them.
Finally, the title of the series When Falling Asleep is taken from the third lieder (“Beim schlafengehen”) of the collection “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss, a piece that in addition to having a beauty intensity, is a stunning metaphor about life and death. As I said above each picture is accompanied by a text extracted from my diary, except the last one where I used the second paragraph of the poem that titles the series.
Nun der Tag mich müd’ gemacht,
Hände, laßt von allem Tun,
Und die Seele unbewacht,
|When Falling Asleep
Now that I am wearied of the day,
Hands, stop all your work.
And my unfettered soul
When Falling Asleep
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
I have gathered in this work an enough number of images to draw what I consider an evocative landscape of the figure of my mother, mixing elements from the past and the present. Although they may seem isolated fragments, I have tried to construct a narrative discourse that goes from my initial vision of the guest room where I spend every Friday (the view of the chair with pillows that symbolizes nocturnal vigil), to the last photograph showing my mother’s hands resting. In the middle, fleeting visions of elements with a strong emotional connection, some evoking elements that are already part of my mother’s past, and other more everyday related to the narrative of pain with which her present biography is written.
I think the set of selected images works efficiently and the goal of arranging images in increasing order of emotional intensity seems to have worked. The first group of photographs 1-4 are related to elements of daily life: care, food, medicine, entertainment (painting and TV) and stimulation (toy and book); The next block of 6 photographs are related to elements of the past, hobbies and memories, arranged in the order in which they were vanished from her memory. The penultimate photograph, depicting the empty sofa where she spent most of the day, represents the absence, as a metaphor of the isolation that disconnects her from her memories. The emotional potential of this photograph is so intense that it has caused the tears of my brothers when they saw the series. The last photograph proposes an ambiguous reading, and presenting her motionless hands abandoned to the dream, mimicking the meaning of Hermann Hesse’s poem.
I used my notebook as a support to gather the ideas suggested by each picture, and I decided to accompany each photo of a small sentence taken from the diary. I avoid to be very literal, not using the text to describe the content of the picture, and leaving room for the viewer’s interpretation.
I chose the square format with helps to constrain the space and focusing the attention of the viewer within the scene framed, which results into a closer and more intimate view of it. Although I tried to keep in mind while shooting, this frame format has provoked some strong crops that rearrange the weight of the elements on the composition: , for example the shoes picture, helps to focus the attention in the colour alternate disposition of the shoes instead of focusing in the socks or the dust.
Quality of outcome
Consistent use of format and color. I could have used black and white to create a sense of nostalgia, but I think the color serves to accentuate that tragic feeling of recent loss of the past that I intend to express through this work.
The set is coherent, showing various objects closely related to the subject; I eliminated some of the photos from the final selection because I considered that, although they were linked to my mother, they did not represent objects belonging to her intimate and everyday environment: for example the following picture is of a dry plant in her garden; Although the appearance of the plant may suggest a neural network, which could be easily related to her memory illness, I decided to eliminate it, first because it is an outside scene and second because there are not man-made elements as in the other ones and it looks somewhat out of place.
Due to the growing use of social networks, the video footage and the collaboration with the composer Brais González seems to me a good dissemination tool for the project, since it allows me to create the environment in which I want the photos to be contemplated.
Although the meaning of some photographs seems confusing to some people who have seen the work, and only after an additional explanation, they understand the meaning, it is not possible to remove any of the 12 photos, since they draw a fairly exact emotional landscape of my mother. I think that although the texts that accompany the photos are not very descriptive, they offer some information for the viewer to approach an interpretation. The final text by Hesse does not break the coherence of the whole: it is the only image where my mother appears, and using such text allows me to distance myself and offer an ambiguous reading without having to insinuate it personally.
Demonstration of creativity
In this work, I return to one of the common places of reflection that concern me: the past and the forgetfulness. The metaphor of the river was not only used by the poet Jorge Manrique: Heraclitus in the Ancient Greece compared the continuous change of the present, and therefore of the past, with the flow of a river in which we never bathe twice. Although the chosen subject may raise an uncomfortable debate in an increasingly hedonistic society, I personally feel the vital need to reflect on the finitude of life, the tragic destiny of the vast majority of humanity inexorably doomed to oblivion.
This time the approach to the matter is in third person, and although I am emotionally bond to the subject, the distance has allowed me to gain more perspective and offer a broader view on the subject, laying the foundation for future approaches.
I believe that the use of texts radically changes the interpretation of the images, and it seems to me that the use of fragments also serves to support the thesis of a past that begins to crumble into oblivion.
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