‘My Mother’ 2008
This is a photograph I took of my mother in 2008. My mother had been quite ill for sometime and had been in and out of hospital after having collapsed several times. She was subsequently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and this was obviously a very fraught time for me and my family. This picture was taken on a Horseman 45HD large format view camera, in my mothers back garden of her council house in Whitehaven, Cumbria. It was a bitterly cold winters day and it took me nearly an hour to set up the shot. I spared my mum the ignominy of freezing to death in her garden and set the shot up without her, until the point at which I needed to press the shutter.
This was not one of the easiest photographs I’ve ever had to take, as anybody who knows my photography will attest to the fact that people are the last thing you’ll find in any of my images. Portraiture for me is anathema and making this image was definitely imbued with a sense of foreboding and necessity, and it was very much on my mind that this might be the last opportunity I have to take this shot. This was exacerbated by the crippling cold and the fact that the neighbour’s Rottweiler was tearing up and down the garden, barking angrily, with only the flimsiest of fences and a handful of cats to protect me.
Given the fact that I mostly photograph the urban and industrial landscape in a studied and objective manner, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this photograph. I haven’t taken many portraits since, and certainly wouldn’t do so for my artistic or professional practice. I’m happy to say that my mother hasn’t kicked the bucket yet, even though her condition is technically terminal. However, the prospect of one’s own mortality, and the loved ones that surrounds us, becomes ever more poignant as time progresses.