The combination of Sally Mann’s work in Immediate Family and Duane Michels work in The House I Once Called Home were the first to trigger the ideas behind this piece of work.
Mann says, of her work, ‘’the place is important; the time is important. It’s summer, any summer, but the place is home.” These words and her work brought to mind a particular period of my life, which became the main inspiration behind my images.
In1986 a family with 4 children came to stay with us for the whole summer. There was 7 children running around with the type of abandon that only children in their summer holidays can have; recklessly leaving toys and games around our garden for one or other of the parents to pick up once we were asleep. These abandoned articles of play, both natural and man-made, are depicted in my images as a reminder of that summer. The deterioration of these playthings symbolising the passing of time and the growing up of the children who once played on them; lying in wait for the next generation.
The juxtaposition of Michels sense of false memory and the dereliction and decay of time was also to become one of my central themes. His work got me thinking about how true my own perception of my past was and how the search for these, potentially erroneous, ideals have influenced how I live my life. The abandoned playthings becoming symbolic of the realisation that the memories may not be real and may never come again.
Unsurprisingly Eugene Smith’s A Walk to the Paradise Garden played a part in the development of this work. By drawing on both Michels and Smith’s obvious use of light and shadow intended to invoke hope and spiritual illumination, I too, have used similar visual techniques to invoke that same hopeful sense of walking into the unknown.
This project has made me realise that this summer idyll has stayed with me and I have lived my life with the belief that, once I am able to feel that summer again, I will truly be home. It explores the idea that whilst that idyll may not be true or may not even exist the feeling of it remains, propagating the hope that it will, one day, exist again both through myself and the family I hope to have one day. That imagined sense of home keeps me moving forward and exploring until I find what I’m looking for. There is a place that William Blake wrote about called Beulah; “a pleasant lovely shadow where no dispute can come’. It is this contradictory make believe place that I am, perhaps trying to emulate, both in these images and my life, the ‘pleasant lovely shadow’ of a summer gone by.