The Way They Whisper
In the first half of 2014, I spent four hours every Wednesday in the activity center of a nursing home. The center is open to the residents of the retirement home and twenty users still living in their own homes. I was there to help out, mostly with the four computers, but a lot of time was spent talking to the people and capturing images.
I had been looking forward to hearing their stories and I was not disappointed. One had been a circus artist. Another was born German but had married a Dane during WWII and moved to Denmark where her husband turned out to be a criminal. A third was quite content his wife through 75 years had died recently as now he need not ask permission to go out to dinner. And they all had tales to tell about growing up in hard working homes in a differently world.
This I had expected. What I had not expected was how old these people were. The man who valued his freedom was 98 and had only given up his car two years ago. The man in the image with the tie and a glass in his hand was also past 90. In fact, most of them were.
The vitality and will to live I found in the users of the center left me gaping in wonder. I was pretty sure none of them had read New Age books about being in the now but here they all were – being able to live a life worthy of living, day by day, even if they must know that very soon they must die.
It brought me to consider what is ‘old’ anyway? Do we grow old and decrepit because we expect to and thus program ourselves to live up to our own expectations? How many people die simply because they give up living? If the people I met, born in the early part of the 20’th Century and working hard all their lives, can be going strong at 98, might not the whole concept of aging be open to change?
I believe we are only beginning to scratch the surface of how long we can live if we feel good about it. My aim with this series is to show that life is not over at 90. There is joy, companionship, creativity and good times to be found way past the marker most of us envision earlier in life.
85% of the people on Earth believes there is a higher meaning to life, ‘something’ out there, something before birth and after death, even a God. So why is it so difficult for us to be here?
It seems the majority of us are constantly looking for and employing escape routes so we don’t have to deal with the pain of being human. If we are so confident about a higher meaning, why can’t we just be here and be present, knowing that in one way or another life is as it should be?
Numbing the pain through drugs, alcohol, or shopping, to name a few, doesn’t make it go away. Like little children covering their eyes with their hands, we have not transformed the pain, only dulled the ache by disconnecting with the now.
I’ve chosen in this body of work to focus on the escape routes people use. I’ve combined the autumn garden with plastic dolls as props to capture the mood of how we feel while trying to numb the pain. The majority of people who crossed my path at this time while I was sticking syringes in roses and running dolls over with my car were quite shocked. I found that interesting. I think we all use escape routes in some ways, perhaps in moderation it even helps keeping us sane, but we seem to find it scary to even discuss them.
Escape routes are not always bad. Sometimes they create the breathing space that keeps us sane. Unchecked they can take over your life and even become emergency exits.
My wish is for people to recognize their own escape routes and perhaps consider which ones are serving them. But also to find in their hearts a greater compassion for people who choose the more drastic and sometimes fatal escape routes. Maybe they can’t help it. Maybe they are just too vulnerable to face life.
The concept of invisibility plays a great part in my life, not in a Harry Potter sort of way with a cape but in how I consider myself invisible to my surroundings. I often play with the thought of moving through the day without anyone seeing me. Often the words, ”I’m not really here” repeat in my head while I move unseen around my neighborhood.
I like the idea of being unnoticed by others. It gives me freedom and space in which to create my own personal interpretation of life. I am aware that the invisibility is most likely an illusion as when a child covers her eyes to hide but I can always pretend.
Apart from creating a feeling of being invisible, I also experience being invisible by not being seen for who I am and by not being recognized for what I do. And like a child on some level I would like to be found and recognized even though I treasure my invisibility.
(Click on the i in the top left hand corner of the images to get the titles displayed)
Our childhood years are with us for the duration of our lives and our perception of them often govern our choices as adults. In this project my aim was to revisit my own childhood through my 9 year old daughter. By portraying objects I perceive are important to her, I imagine myself being that age again but in a happier world.
The images are not so much a reflection on her experience as a coming to terms with my own. My parents were well meaning but troubled by depressions, post traumatic stress, and abuse in childhood, numbing the pain through addictions. Thus my childhood was not the safe haven they intended for me but a scary place where I had to always tread carefully. When my parents died in 2001 my biggest grief was that now they would never become the parents I had dreamed about having.
Today I see the point of what I learned as a child but I still occasionally feel I’ve missed out on something very important. By capturing elements of my daughter’s life I rewrite my own story into one where I felt safe and protected as I imagine she does. By sharing this process I encourage the many adults with broken childhoods to rewrite their own story. While we can’t change our childhood we can change the story of it and release the pain and thus bring healing to our lives and to those around us.
(Click on the i in the top left hand corner of the images to get the titles displayed)
The concept of spring is vital to the Danish people. We are a nation of bi-polars. At the darkest time of year we have only eight hours of light while at midsummer it gets light at 5 a.m. and only barely dark by 11 p.m. In the winter we ground, bundle up, almost hibernate, and often tempers are as short as the day. In the summer we are transformed to outgoing people eager to make the most of every single moment of the gift of light.
The transition from darkness to light is marked by signs deeply ingrained in the natives. Every child knows the sequence of the flowers – eranthis, snowdrop, crocus – these milestones in measuring the progress. Every adult will stop and sniff the air through layers of winter clothes on the day of the undefinable turning point. And we all notice how the sun will finally both warm us to our chilled bones and mercilessly reveal the dirty windows and the dust piled up through the dark months.
Spring is a time of anticipation with summer still far enough in the future to promise to fulfill every dream we ever had.
Self portrait is a classic category within any art form. Here are mine.
- Always a smile on my face
- Still mommy’s little girl
- Whiped out
Winters in Scandinavia are dark and dreary. On the positive side it is acceptable to isolate yourself from life during the winter. Hiding inside houses behind walls of naked branches, seeing the outside world only in glimpses, hibernating, waiting for spring – or dreading spring.
What do we carry and how do we carry it?
We all carry something – bags, water bottles, scars, excess weight, tattoos, emotional pain. Some of what we carry is evident as they are physical objects but the rest we can only speculate about.
With this body of work my intention is to focus on what people physically carry but to encourage the viewer to look deeper. I chose to make the images faceless as faces often draw our attention. My aim here is to look beyond facial expression.
We all have preset notions about a person from the way they look but often these notions tell us more about ourselves than about the person we are looking at. By considering what clues to the personality we can glean from just looking at the center of a person, what they carry, and how they carry themselves we might gain an insight into how we view ourselves.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is said. I have a never ending fascination of urban decay and a deep wish to capture what I see to show others what they are missing when disgarding apparent dicline and focusing only on what is immidiately ethetically pleasing. As with people, objects that are battered, beaten, and less than perfect attracts me with their strange and haunting beauty – colour, texture, contrat.
These photos were all shot at Refshaleøen, Copenhagen, Denmark.