I re-edited the Previous Personality series that I took of my mother and me from 2006-2009. I shot it all on large format (5 x 4) at her old peoples home in Blackheath, London. My mum tried to escape from this beautiful Edwardian Arts & Crafts building at least twice. Once, she managed to scale an 8ft fence and outrun two of the care workers. Apparently they were chasing her in the evening dark, down the middle of the road and mum out ran them at at 76. She was by this time very Elfin and she was, as such, very spritely but also robust. One of the majestic Caribbean ladies who dressed her daily and put her to bed every night, said of her, “She’s a tough old bird.” I liked that because that’s me too, I may look weak but I’m not. In fact “I’m strong as an Ox”. (As my friend Beth used to say of herself). Its O.k, you can be fragile and tough. You can confound people, sometimes you might even be able to confound yourself.
I like the way I am leaning in to mum here (below). Our relationship, in the last five years of her life- even the last ten (the duration of her illness) was very tactile. I touched and hugged her all the time, I made sure of it. She responded to seeing me appearing in the room in front of her with such enormous happiness that it always made it worth the trip to see her- she was so happy to see me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of enthusiasm to see me before..of course you love it- especially if this person is your own mother! I don’t understand people who don’t look after (as much as they can), their parents. You don’t even have to be a parent yourself to appreciate what they have done for you (unless they have been complete Bastards).
Anyway- here is the pic. I look at mum here as a viewer/ photographer/ daughter, and I think- is this image o.k? But that is what it was like. My own mother, a woman who was normally so acutely intelligent, original and profound. There she was, suddenly, pulling these crazy faces. What- do I not photograph it? I am an artist. This work is certainly not for walls, it never was. If anything, these images were just meant for the record. A document of a time. Something to help me decide what exactly it was. So many layers. So complicated. But in many ways, so beautiful. I never experienced love like it as I did with my mother in those final years. She was, like my children are now- soaking up the love. Maybe that happens in the beginning and end of life? Love. Isn’t that the ultimate place?