Warped is a collection of selected photographs of and by my mother that I found after her death this past summer 2014 after a sixteen year battle with breast cancer, dementia, and Alzheimers. Boxes of color slides were abandoned for years in a flood prone garage. Their existence forgotten in the chaos and disorganization that seems to accompany long term illness. The slides have been digitally scanned after decades of neglect and water damage. These images are scanned and re-produced as is, with only minimal digital cleaning, and color/exposure balancing.
From the age of 14, I have been an active witness to the sudden seizure and slow the retreat of time as my mother experienced it. As her memories receded and overlapped, I have accompanied her on her journey, retracing the course of her own life. Beside her, time was a tide that both recedes into the distance, and floods the present moment. These are her photographs. They are imprints of light, of vision; filaments to be peeled off and examined gingerly, like finger-print petals made by dipping your finger into molten candle wax.
These photographs are a trail of crumbs leading me through the forest of my mother’s memories. Looking for answers to questions I never got a chance to ask, I am following her down the rabbit hole of her past self; what she saw, how she felt, how it felt to look at her then. The subjects are universal; coupledom, vacation, visits with friends, young family. The compositions are loose and relaxed. Looking at these photographs feels like reading her fleeting thoughts from long ago. They are fragments of an enchanted mirror that allows me to view the past through her eyes, past emotions scratch their way across perceptual memory, distorting and confusing the details.
Did she remember these moments through the deterioration and encroaching fuzz of time and dementia? Maybe she remembered the times that surrounded these shudder clicks, maybe these moments lasted more clearly than others. Maybe this was how she remembered herself. Proof of her youth and radiance, proof of travel and friendships. Maybe the existence of these photos helped to re-fill her with self-assurance, a way to re-tell her own history to herself. Maybe not.
In these photos, time is not an abstract change that happens in your mind, it is also a physical, chemical process. The details recorded in the photographs that were once sharp and precise, are now illusive, subliminal and painterly. Time transforms; it’s residue scrapes its way across the surface of the photographs. The layers of plastic dye that recorded the light that shone on her then, now releasing the secrets of its organic make-up. Thin layers of pigment, formerly trapped in chemical stasis, now leak out across the images in saturated brilliance; a full-filled promise of their latent molecular potential.
Memory and personal history are expressed through the scars of mistakes and happenstance, marking the photographs with the traces of their own individual object histories. The photographs appear as if they have been recalled from the recesses of memory from behind closed eyes, recordings of the scorched, fading burns of visual memory.
These photographs are alive in that they are dying. They visually reflect the internal experience of their subject / maker.The dematerialization of the images further tie the photographs to the experience of their creator. They are anthropomorphized photographic objects, physical temporality made visible.