When faced with the challenge of creating work for a new exhibition I guess the obvious thing is to look at the title of the exhibition and take it from there. My textile group Running Stitch has an exhibition planned for September and our chosen title is Roots so because of my keen interest in social history it seemed natural to turn to my own family roots, not in a 'Who Do You Think You Are' kind of way by tracing my ancestry and digging skeletons out of the cupboard, but just from looking at resources to hand such as old family photographs, memorabilia and simply what I can remember from my parents and grandparents.
This is the kind of photograph that everybody must have in their old photo albums. The formal studio portrait often produced as stiff postcards with the name of the photographic studio on the back. If you are lucky then somebody somewhere will have written down who the people are but more often than not these things are passed down through the generations unrecorded and it's difficult then to identify who these strange people are staring back at you. I remember in one photo album my mum had inherited from her parents she had written beneath a photograph of a starchy, glum looking Victorian couple "your guess is good as mine - haven't a clue who these two are". It's best to make a record of these things while you can because now I have no living parents or grandparents (and no living aunts or uncles either to speak of as my mum was an only child, my dad's five older siblings have long since passed away and we lost touch years ago with any cousins) so sadly there is no one then to answer my questions about my family history. I have to rely on my own and my brother's memory and to be honest our memories aren't as sharp as they used to be. I can identify though the lovely couple above as they are my maternal grandparents who I am named after - Jack and Mary.
And this is me on Flash the donkey taken on holiday in Bournemouth. What became apparent though while I was looking through all the old photos (apart from where have all those years gone?) is that there are no more photos after about 2004 which is when we bought a digital camera. I am a bit of a technophobe, however, I have embraced this technical godsend and love the immediacy and censorship of the digital 'snap' knowing you can dustbin the really horrendous ones of yourself before they come back and bite you on the bum. How I remember the excitement of coming back off holiday, racing to Boots with the reels of film to get them developed, then collecting your wallets of 24 or 36 photos only to discover a mere handful have turned out any good because you either forgot to use the flash or you were so far away from your subject that they were hard pressed to even get a look in on the photo. The downside of the digital camera is of course you don't really bother to get them developed these days. Oh sure, I always mean to but never quite get round to it.
|Me, Mum, Dad & Grandad - Three Generations|
During the seventies our family photos progressed from black and white to glorious technicolour as we were then able to afford the extra for colour film and processing but there will always be something so deeply nostalgic about those black and white 'snaps' taken on a breezy beach in Bournemouth.