This project grew out of time spent with my Dad since he has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus and vascular dementia.
I’ve combined both documentary and conceptual approaches to attempt a visual explanation of his situation. There are a number of techniques peculiar to photography that make it an ideal medium for this idea, such as the ability of long exposures to spread time across an image and the way multiple exposures can hold more than one reality within a single frame.
These photographs are not stolen moments but constructed hyperrealities composed in collaboration with my Father, working in black and white to re-represent the apparent order of things. This is particularly noticeable in Pathways, where the two paths (which represent two possible realities) maintain an uncanny co-existence that is somehow muddied by the addition of colour. At the same time black and white also allows me to keep one leg of my tripod planted in the documentary - and by implication factual - tradition.
My initial image was taken a couple of years ago, in the High Street in Twickenham, where my Dad has lived his whole life. He could still get about then, albeit with a walking frame. Things were slowing down for him – time was starting to pass him by.
Since then he has spent several months in various hospitals, including the Chelsea & Westminster. My Father is an intelligent man with whom it is still possible to have a detailed discussion about, for example, the merits of various engines or racing drivers from times gone by. But he can, very unpredictably, become confused as to the recent past or his immediate surroundings – for example in hospital he would sometimes think he was at his old office, 95 Wigmore Street.
This of course is disconcerting for both of us. It seems bizarre, but when I took a photo of the hospital and superimposed it onto one of his office, it did not look that strange at first. The brain rapidly tries to make sense of the information it receives – humans are very good at pattern matching. The double exposure looked like a reflection in a glass building, a common sight in the busy streets of today. A neural network iterates to find a match for the visual data it is fed. If some of that data is corrupted, it will move to the nearest equivalent – instead of the hospital perhaps another institutional environment such as the office.
My mother visits him every day, but occasionally now he may confuse her with his own mother.
As the access to his memory becomes more random, my Father moves more freely between different realities, filling in the gaps to populate the present with details from his past. This is a photographic record of his journey.