I am still no closer to understanding the reasons behind rifts and images within the archive. My mother is fairly closed about the topic and I have yet to really probe that aspect. I have also not had a reply from my grandmother as of yet, so there is no real chance of uncovering anything from the other side. Does this matter? I recently had a peer critique with Claire, who questioned whether I was going to provide some kind of answer to all of this or if it should remain unsolved. There is potential to completely change the way the work reads if I were to over explain and try to give answers. I am not really concerned that I might not find them either. The universality in the work, in the sense of the fractured family, as pointed out by Claire is what makes it interesting, which was a comment I received during the portfolio reviews. This idea of mystery keeps it interesting, with the potential to keep coming back to it and trying to work this thing out.
Figure 1: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Images collected from archive and recent photographs [before editing]
Now that the restrictions have lifted a bit, I have been able to continue the project and add more of my own images to the mix. On visiting my parents, I was very interested in all of the objects that they have within the family home that are linked to parts of this, feeding the unreliable narrator within the project. My parents have never really kept many family images on shelves and mantles etc, this is in great contrast to my wife’s family homes, which display many generations of family on the walls and on shelves. This led me to consider other items and objects on display that have links and represent the themes within my work. For example, the image of the sunflowers is a painting made by my brother dated 1997, it has been on the wall above the television since then. The image was framed for us by my grandmother and probably one of the last links through an object that we have in the house. This idea of objects is something that I am coming back to, in anthropological terms they are a way of learning about people and cultures in the absence of them. Matthew Engelke refers to an idea of ‘material culture’ (2017: 6-7), which defines the way that anthropologists and also archaeologists can learn about a people from the things that they leave behind and I can also use the objects with in the archive and within the family home to better understand in the absence of members of my own family – in their absence.
An interesting development related to the pandemic, is in the additional distance it places on my view of my parents home, which is also my childhood home. There was always part of this as I live in the South East, my parents two and a half hours away in the South West, limited the amount of trips I make to see them under normal circumstances. With the pandemic, there are more limits placed and I have not seen them for nearly a year. Owing to the research of my project, I have found that the way I look through objects within the house quite differently. I would never call this objectively, but an element of distance means that I can start to document without a usual emotive connection attached to it. Wayne C. Booth’s definition of the unreliable narrator places variations of distance between the characters, the narrator, and the author of the story (1975: 155), and I will need to determine how much distance I place between myself and the project. I am the author of the work but also a narrator of it – just as unreliable a the narrative I present. Claire also noted this in our peer discussion, suggesting the consideration of how much of myself I have within the work. It is a personal journey, so on the one hand I should be included somehow. However, the universality of the fractured family could mean that I can work to make the project broader with me presenting and narrating the work for the reader.
Booth, W. C., 1975. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 11 ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Engelke, M., 2017. Think Like an Anthropologist. London: Pelican Books.