At first you think that Briony’s project is personal and full of emotion, reading the story that goes alongside it, really engenders some of that raw emotion in the view as well. The soft tones and shades add to dreamy almost unreal aura they produce. Whereas, you when you view’s smith’s images they are following a stranger around doing his job and you would think they would be dispassionate. However, that’s not how they come across, the compositions and use of high contrast really give a sense of drama and factual.
However, having read Smith’s bio, it appears that these images were taken only a year after he himself had recovered from a major injury sustained whilst acting as a war correspondent during the 2nd World War. Putting them into the context of his own experiences and this may be why they are full of emotion and candour.
Briony Campbell says that the work is ‘an ending without an ending’? – I believe she means that because this is personal about her life that it can’t / won’t be packed away in box some place once the project is finished. It will always be with her and help her to remember her dad. Personally, I think once you’ve invested in a project it always very hard to draw a line under it and never think about again!
His work the ‘Country Doctor’ was a ‘fly on wall’ documentary of the day to day life and work of a general practitioner named Dr. Ernest Ceriani.
Smith’s images although documentary also capture the emotion of the scene by his composition and angles. Taken in 1948, this is only a few years after being a war correspondent where he focused on taken images of the suffering of the people rather than the soldiers and battles. He himself was injured and had to undergo a lot of surgery so it is perhaps these to events that led him to concentrate on the life of a doctor.
The project is personal and emotional and although she found it difficult to do at the time, it has become very intrinsic to her and her work. She has been struck by how sharing her work has helped her grieve but also the impact it has on others.
I understand her comment about remembering that new viewers to the work are just experiencing this impact and she must remember this in responding to their reactions.
She says that the work is ‘an ending without an ending’? – I believe she means that because this is personal about her life that it can’t / won’t be packed away in box some place once the project is finished. It will always be with her and help her to remember her dad.
My own reaction was very raw, my own father passed away 4 years ago and this brought back many memories for me. I would love to have such images of him. It is a bit of a taboo in our country to photograph the dying process of our loved ones, but it is also a part of life, we photograph birth and weddings, why not death. Whilst I don’t like having my photo taken, I have come to realise that how important they become when someone is no longer here, but for me, like Briony, I want to capture the real person, not the person in wedding and christening photos.
Another photographer who has used grief for a body of work which I much admire is Kirsty Mitchell. The work and subsequent book is called Wonderland. She created this a tribute to her mother who had died from cancer. It took her six years. Her website here, tells the story
For me both of these stories are personal and thought provoking. The accompanying narrative in both cases is well written and in some cases quite raw. I think this helps the viewer really engage, understand and relate to subject matter and set of images.