I don’t necessarily think of myself as an older person. But there you are, I am an older person. So when I was asked by Garter Lane Arts Centre to facilitate a photography workshop for older people as part of the Bealtaine Festival, I was curious. (The Bealtaine Festival is about celebrating the arts as we get older.)
Ageing is a subject I have been exploring for quite a while, mainly through my own self portrait memory series which began when I was about 10. I call this series “Ripening.” This short slideshow was made for the group to introduce the idea of photography as memory and feeling. I always have this quote from the artist Paul Klee in mind when I look through a lens; ” One eye sees, the other feels.”
I began work with an existing women’s group. At the first session I realised I was very emotional and passionate about the place of photography in our lives. The importance of memories. How people often say they would rush back into a burning building to save their old photograph albums. In the digital world and the era of the selfie I was wondering aloud about how other people experience photography in their lives?
I have a lot of very old family photos. My sister rescued them from my Grand Aunt’s house after it was sold. There are albums full of tiny black and white photos of people we don’t even know. But every so often there is the familiar face of one of the family smiling through from the past. There are other old pictures of myself as a little kid gathering rose petals in the back garden of our house in Dundalk. And then there are my own photos taken with a tiny instamatic camera. This was when I began to capture the everyday goings on of myself as a young girl. I even posed for photos leaning against a tree or staring into space.
So not too much has changed then!
As always I think I have been learning more than anyone else in these workshops. Learning how to be present in the face of this kind of organic exploration. Learning to be brave. Learning about collaboration as part of how I practice.
One of the main tasks when you produce a camera is to get everyone comfortable. Women are hilarious. They will always want you to go away and not photograph them. I’m exactly the same myself! I get told about wrinkles, bad necks, bulges, big noses. So I started by photographing hands and gradually, over these weeks, we have been getting to know each other.