I am so thankful this was shown to me by one of her dear friends at the funeral. I would have gone my whole life without seeing it... It's been said we look alike and I agree, especially in this image. She will have been my age too... About 17.
l want to thank my mum and Harry for searching, lending and joining my search for the right materials I needed to make this piece work. They helped me pick myself up when I was overcome...
The final shoot from the project. Johnathan deserves a special mention for suggesting, helping me research Vanitas paintings and sorting out the lighting with me towards the end. This shoot was quite an experience. I was sharing the studio with another student, Irene, a photographer on her degree who was also assembling Vanitas. She was playing disco music of all things. Dancing Queen came on. This was a favourite of my gran's, so I know she was looking down on us that day.
Festival Fever had a totally different beginning to how it ended up. But the festival inspiration always was essentially Day of the Dead. It was Drake who encouraged me to do something for my Gran and first helped me organise my first thoughts and research other aspects of Day of the Dead.
Initially I researched over 40 festivals in great detail, which was very educational and time consuming. I also reseearched Surrealists like Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Picasso who influenced me throughout the project. But...
On the 24th of March my Gran passed away. This came to be a shock to us all, especially me, who thought I would have at least another 20 years with her. Always immaculate, making sure everything was kept spotlessly clean, ate healthily and took vitamin supplements. This kept her looking and feeling healthy, she retained a figure that has been compared to mine. Into her 70s people would guess she looked to be in her 40s. Her cause of death is still unknown.
Dayna and Tom were there for me when I received the news that my gran was critical and I honestly don't know what would have happened if they hadn't been there with me then and since. I still had to get the train back to Leeds, and wait alone in Waterstones on Albion Street for my mum to pick me up and deliver the news I didn't want to hear. Then we drove to Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield...
I felt then, and still struggle now to comprehend how someone so vital and strong could possibly die. I still have moments where I feel like I just haven't seen her in a while. So much has happened in my life. So many tears shed. So many hugs needed. So many occasions worth celebrating. I turn around and she's not there. Everything about this feels totally wrong, like it can't have happened.
I'll be honest. It still feels like she is dying. She is not at peace. And it is so wrong. All through her life she kept in good spirits and always tried to help everyone to get on - if she suffered she did so with grace and hated to make a scene. This is something I admired in her and I think stems from WWII when civilians tried to stay positive and not bring each other down during wartime. It's how everyone got through.
But I'd be lying if I said keeping on is easy. It doesn't go away, you just get used to it... Grief. Grief was a very lonely experience for me. All around me my peers were not on the same level. All their concerns were material. I was on another plane of upset. No one could feel what I was going through. People joke about killing themselves, suicide and death on a daily basis (or was that just my college? It was concerning).
Once you have seen a corpse, you grasp the meaning of death. It's a sobering experience. You are no longer desensitised. And suddenly all the suicide jokes aren't funny anymore. Not when you feel this low. Not when you just lost someone so special to you, that cannot be replaced.
And you don't care if no one understands. You don't care if they are young, because so are you. You know they aren't mindreaders, yet you don't see why you should have to explain everything, all the time. Why don't people already know? Why can't people show some consideration, some compassion? You are so tired...
Instead of taking a break from college and completely shutting myself down, I decided to work through my pain and turn my current project, Festival Fever, around to base it on her.
I think this decision created the most personal and the best outcome I have produced so far. It has helped me in more ways than I know. Her death has been taken into my practice, as it did Magritte.
She is always with me. No doubt if you have met me you have seen me wear her ring of Lapis Lasuli. It is one of the few possessions of her that I have to remember her.
In creating this Vanitas, I have tried to restore some of her dignity. In doing this it has not only helped me come to terms with my grief, but it has helped me fully and positively celebrate who she really was and the many lives she led, in keeping with the spirit of Day of the Dead. I now share this person with the world with the knowledge that she will not be so easily forgotten by anyone.
This shoot was to inspire our outcomes, development work. Strangely, I was able to easily carry the gas mask motif into the changed brief, stripping it back to its origins. My gran was a war baby. She and her siblings grew up with the gas masks and hearing air raid sirens. She told me stories... Photos of me by Kerryn, the rest by me.
Your Mighty Boosh is showing.
Chinese influence showing through.
Looking back I have no idea where I was going with this. Imagine if I went to a music fesival like this... To be fair I think it would be standard.
He's a weird kid, but who am I to talk?
She made a beautiful mask here. She now studies Illustration at York St John's.
Best pretend festival I've ever camped in.
Ingrid has a great face. I should photograph her more often.
Facepaint by Jess.