The comfort of photosWritten by Benjamin Chesterton
My parents never really understood photography. They never saw it as a job, or even as work.
Work was physical afterall. It involved going to a factory or an office and, above all, work involved some sort of sacrifice.
Photography was play, pretend. It wasn’t work, because how could it be, especially if I seemed to be doing so much of it in my own time?
Work meant suffering, for Black working-class people at least.
Being burnt by hot flying metal, in my mother’s case, as she worked a lathe at Burton Delingpole in Old Hill. Driving a forklift truck from one side of Goodyear’s factory and then back again, for nearly 40 years, in my dad’s case. Add to this racist abuse from foremen and being paid less than their fellow white workers to fix their thoughts.
They would be proud of me if they knew how similar the job of photography was, well at least the racism and being paid less part. Anyway, that’s for another post.
I always knew it was for my own good though. Their desire for me to get a ‘real job’, I mean. Besides, my parents had told me that they’d never ever used a camera, never even ever taken a single photograph, so how could they ever see it as ‘work’, as meaningful?
Anyway, to be honest, I can’t deny that there haven’t been times [OFTEN] when I haven’t thought this too. Yeah, why didn’t I get a real job?
On my last visit to England, though, it was strange to see how much my dad’s relationship with photography had changed. And how much comfort photography, some of it mine, gives him as he looks back at the past.
With encroaching dementia, my sisters have adorned all the walls of his living room with photographs. His dementia has perhaps made the people in the photographs real once more. As conversations and hand gestures made towards them perhaps suggests. These photographs give him comfort and joy in a world which COVID has increasingly estranged him from.
Perhaps photography still doesn’t seem like work for him; perhaps he still doesn’t understand it.
More importantly, though, for him, photography keeps my mom alive, in his mind at least, and keeps him connected to the world, even if it is a world of his own making.
Andrew Jackson (as found on his Instagram)
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