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Poems I didn’t know how to write

Heartbeats, is a photographic, creative response to the experience of watching my children grow up. Each photograph dense with concentrated personal significance, the series as a whole unfolds as a collection of memories. Heartbeats is an expression of love where words fail. The photographs are poems, which I didn’t know how to write. Poems of boyhood, longing, innocence, vulnerability, mortality.” The work seek to address questions that are fundamental to human experience, the answers to which we might have lost touch with as we’ve become older – “What does childhood mean, how does it feel?”

I’m older now than my father was when he died of alcoholism at the age of 41. At the time I was nine years old. The same age as my two sons are now. I only have vague memories of him, which are not that pleasant. He wasn’t a bad person but he just wasn’t a dad for me either. Maybe he didn’t know how. His own relationship with his dad had been very problematic. I remember crying when my mother told me about his death, but that was the only time. I felt numb. I didn’t feel anything. As harsh as it may sound, I guess he didn’t really mean much to me.

I have documented my children since they were born. I have photographed the everyday. The recognisable and intimate moments that all parents witness. My project can be seen as coloured memories, a visual diary. A way to pause the time to help me to respect the moment. To help me not to forget, as I have forgotten my own childhood memories with my father. Susan Sontag wrote: “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” This is my way to stop the clock and keep these moments alive. Although I’m documenting my sons’ childhood, it is also my memories that I’m salvaging, for myself.

Heartbeats upholds the wonder of the ordinary. With children everything is chaos, and from that chaos, I try to recognise those moments that I don’t necessarily find unique but that resonate with something that I find significant. I am forging tangible memories that are steeped in the essence of my sons’ experience of childhood and my own experience of parenthood. Hugs, smiles, cries, fears, joys. Chaos, tiredness, happiness. The feeling of touching their hair and drawing to their backs with a finger. Their hearts beating so close it feels like mine.     
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