A Day at the Lake
My current project entitled “A Day at the Lake” is a continuation of an ongoing personal exploration regarding the concept of time, loss, and memory. With my grandmother as the main subject of this project, we had the opportunity to travel to her hometown in Ashland, Wisconsin. The project is comprised of a combination of portraits, landscapes, and other details from her childhood that I shot on medium format film, as well as transcriptions of stories and memories she’s shared with me.
My grandmother moved away from Ashland when she was 20 years old, but whenever she recounts her childhood there her face lights up as if it were some magical place. Her distant memories of her life there however, are disjointed from the Ashland that we visited together. Not only has repeated recollection of the same stories likely altered her memories, but most of her friends and family members who lived there have since past, and most places have changed considerably with time. Some of this imagery includes her childhood home, the old dirt road that happened to be paved for the first time while we were visiting, and her elementary school which has been converted into an apartment building. Together they tell a story of loss and how time skews one’s memory and perception of place.
The work resonates on the fact that a photograph can never tell the complete story- that memories are lost with the beholder. It puts into questions how one perceives time and space when faced with images of sparse overgrown landscapes and the trail of the moon going across the sky. I intend for my work to to pay homage to the past while being careful not to self-indulge in nostalgia. I was greatly inspired by photographer William Christenberry’s process of revisiting locations and reflecting on changes to landscapes and buildings over time, as well as Alec Soth’s environmental portraits which describe place and time so poignantly.
Having turned 89 this year, this time in my grandmother’s life is comprised of idleness, waiting, and reflecting. Contrastingly, the imminence of death is something that I, being in my 20s, cannot intrinsically understand because I have only ever looked to the future. So when she first told me she was ready for “the long sleep,” it was rather jarring for me. I personally struggle with the fear of losing the people I love, and my memories of them, but she is slowly teaching me how to embrace loss. “A Day at the Lake” captures my grappling with this process photographically, as well as adding to the ever-present dialog of how photography can both enhance and alter memory.