How does Briony Campbell’s ‘The Dad Project’ compare with ‘Country Doctor’ by W. Eugene Smith?
One of the main differences for me with the two projects is W. Eugene Smith’s ‘Country Doctor’ was in a way detached from the subject matter. He could take a more objective stance on the project.There was a clearly defined separation between himself and the subject he was photographing, in this case the daily working life of Dr. Ernest Ceriani during the late 1940’s. Where as ‘The Dad Project’ is a very personal project for the photographer Briony Campbell, telling the story of her fathers deterioration from cancer and his eventual passing. She is a part of the Project itself.
I have to say both projects are very powerful. I admire both of these. It must have been a really hard decision for Briony to take on the project, a brave one and her commitment to the work shows in the end project and the images she produced. I think her father would be really proud of what she produced.
I looked through 38 of the images of W. Eugene Smith’s ‘Country Doctor’ on line. I absolutely love these photographs and the story they tell of this committed Doctor working tirelessly for his local community. The use of black and white and the way they have been edited are just beautiful. For me the photographs almost have a classic film feel to them as if they are stills taken from an old movie or a documentary. I can see how his work has influenced other photographers in the visual photo essay genre and style. The captions add to the photographs but the photographs also say so much about what is going on in the scene.
What do you think she (Briony Campbell) means by ‘an ending without an ending’?
Briony states in the 10min video clip for the Guardian ‘The Dad Project’ is ‘an ending without an ending, it’s a relationship I am still exploring. This is my attempt to say goodbye to my Dad, with the help of my camera.’
Sadly my father has cancer along with progressing dementia and a list of other illnesses. I have thought about how his mind, memory and health is gradually deteriorating over time, will he remember me in the future? Have I said everything I want to say to him? Has he said everything he wants to say to me? I have thought about ‘the end.’ Its something all families have to confront at some point but nobody wants to.
For me this means Briony Campbell is recording/documenting the ending of her fathers life, through the use of her photography, it captures the moment for ever in time so there is no ending, she and the viewer/observer can always look back at the photographs. The physical body dies but the memories and story live on within the visual images. The influence of our parents lives on within us. Although her father has passed, her memories of her father remain and its about finding a way to deal with the loss of a loved one, the story doesn’t end. By creating the body of work and sharing it with others it may help them too.
I guess one of the biggest challenges would have been to remain objective when you are so close to the subject you are trying to cover. Briony touches on the ‘duality’ of her role during the creation of the project, being a daughter and a photographer, finding the right balance.
The final photograph she uses is an old photograph of herself as a child dressed up as her father, which speaks powerfully, visually, of the importance of the role of her father in her life.