Welcome to my 6th blog on Memories from the Home: I’m (Blog No 5) continuing the theme of sounds in the home; this time Music evoking memory and supporting connections to deceased loved ones.
Action for happiness day May 2020 shared this picture recently and it seemed and appropriate time to share my thoughts about Music and its importance to me, within the context of memory, grief, connection and the family home.
Music has always been an important part of family fun and socialising. My Nan was a keen piano player, playing by ear, ‘on the bontempi‘ as Grandad would always say, as children we would always make up our own radio shows, put on plays, and singing performances for our Grandparents. My family are now in bands.
In organising my Grandparents home after they had died, at the time I didn’t have the storage for their vinyl collection, but knew I wanted to keep it. A lot of the vinyl was the likes of Bing Crosby, other readers digest collections of the time, plus other big band swing music such as ‘Are you listening’ by Harry Roy and His Orchestra -why not have a listen here.
Nan had a great love of big band music, and there was a lot of military bands in their collection, as well as other music that I don’t recognise. Those of you who own Vinyl records know, there is such a beauty in the tangibility of the whole process, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, ensuring not to touch the surface of the vinyl to ruin it in some way, preparing to play. When I want to listen to them, the process, the action is potentially the same as if when my Grandparents were listening to them. I love the crackle of the vinyl, the little jumps every so often, the gentle whir of the turn table, the click of the resting arm. I don’t recall them listening to this specific album, but I now always have that tangible process to imagine them going through the same actions as me and listening together in their home, perhaps remembering dancing together when they were younger. Through music and the physicality of these objects I am making new meanings and continuing connections explored by such writers as Unruh and Riches & Dawson. The collection is now organised in my home, with those I’m more likely to listen to on display, and others safely stored away.
Do you have a music collection, gifted to you by your loved ones?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief at home. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved in my research.
Welcome to my 5th blog on Memories from the Home: this time I’m connecting with sounds in the home.
Clocks are often a present sound in our homes, the grandness of them depending on the house and person. From our mobile phones which are often our music listening devices, as well as alarm clocks, and voice recorders, to Grandfather clocks, wall mountable or little carriage clocks on the mantlepiece. All clocks modern or traditional have identifiable and unique contributions to the sound of the home.
These ticking trinkets, just as the presence of photographs, give us markers in time (as noted by one of my favourite authors John Berger)and a continual reminder of the passing of time.
This wall mounted Abbey Quartz clock belonged to my Grandparents, hanging in their front room, near to the edge of the colour change in the wall paper, just above another symbol of time – that years calendar. This one chimed on the hour, I can’t recall if it had the sound of the ‘tick tock’ pendulum. Looking back on the photograph of it now, I can see (please look closer) that the circle on the pendulum still has the protective film of green on it to stop it getting scratched. It could have been forgotten to have been taken off when hung, or purposely kept on to keep it nice, something I think my Grandparents would have done.
Wall clocks and their ticking and chiming was always that traditional sound I associated most with visiting my Grandparents, they had them for as long as I remember. It prompted me to look through old family photographs of my Grandparents front room with the clock in. I came across this one:
The photo shows a previous clock, in the same spot, sometime in the early 90’s, not too far from the mirror that now sits within my home, and has been symbolic of many reflections throughout my research and in navigating my grief and understanding my continuing connections to my Grandparents. The clock symbolised the rituals when we used to visit them, the time we would arrive, the 12 o’clock chime for their lunch, the chiming for the time for us to catch the bus home. As a child it was something in the background, counting the chimes when they happened.
As I got older and when taking photographs of the clock, I have stopped it in a moment, like the newer clock left after the death of my Grandparents, as if time did stop at that moment, but equally painfully obvious knowing that it continued, but without them. The sound of the chiming became a symbol of living in and being aware of the moment and moments past.
It therefore wasn’t surprising to me the reaction of warmth, I felt when an MA research participant’s clock, that was originally her Fathers, struck during our interview. I became fixed on the sound of the mechanics, sitting peacefully with her listening to the knock of the mechanism, and subsequent chime. I’m glad we paused for a second to listen, appreciating that moment listening to the passing of time together, being captured by my I-phone, please do listen to that recording here. The participant said that her Father would have been happy that the clock and its sound was bringing joy to others in this way.
In Back to the Future III Doc Emmett Brown came back to the future to meet Marty and Jennifer after the DeLorean was destroyed, he said ‘Your future is whatever you make it‘ and how we mark time, moving into the future, and in remembering the past, is individual to each and everyone of us.
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
Flow in creativity is a process of exploration between what is known i.e. a rock and an exciting place, where you find yourself creating, being totally absorbed in what you are doing.
Csikszentmihalyi suggests that there are key factors that are needed to support this way of thinking and being:
- Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
- A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
- Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
- Knowing that the activity is doable – that skills are adequate to the task.
- A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
- Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present.
- Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
I came across similar ways of thinking through such writers as Piotr Stzompka and Sarah Pink. They both write about the use of visuals in social research, Stzompka referring to it as a ‘Third Sociology’ what happens in society between structures and actions. I liken these to Flow, being ‘in-the-zone’ having focus, time in finding new ways to approach creativity and explore feelings in a safe space, to find or process new meanings.
I can attribute to what I experienced through my photography after the deaths of three family members within a period of four years, as being in a state of flow as a way of navigating my grief. I gave myself time to fall into a process of being, photographing and reflecting on the objects and memories I had from my family members. I had my skills as a photographer, someone who was bereaved, focus and time to connect through flow.
The one object that I felt most at Flow with was my Dad’s watch. I would spend hours photographing, filming, touching, wearing alongside my own smart watch, listening to the ticking, imagining, smelling the leather and old aftershave. I contemplated the passage of time us both living alongside one another in digital and analogue, the symbolism of death and ending when the ticking stopped like a heart beat, I knew it would happen one day, instigating another loss of something of him.
I chose not to replace the battery as it would not be ‘of him’, and think of it like Triggers Broom, if you’ve seen the Only Fools and Horses sketch of the well maintained Broom, he’s explaining he’s had the same broom for 20 years, but essentially is made up of a number of ‘new’ parts!
Have you been in flow when creating something?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and others use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Welcome to my second post of this little series of ‘Memories from Home’ blog.
In my Masters research it was important for participants to have items that they could physically hold such as photographs, and other objects in their homes, as well as using other senses (smell for example) when remembering a loved one. These interactions through touch sometimes fleeting in the everyday, were important in maintaining ongoing memories and connections to their loved one. The object or photograph either gifted to or bought by the participant, was often kept in prominent or useful places in the home maintaining a sense of their loved one in their everyday, a tangible presence in absence of the person.
I became fascinated through my visual recording of the interviews, how objects and photographs brought to the table for discussion (literally in some instances as we spoke over coffee and dining tables), were touched and presented, often with fondness and care. The way items were presented to me supported participants anonymity, enabling me to take photo’s of the objects either directly on tables or held in someones hands.
The Pudding Tin
Fray Bento’s is a Scottish food brand whose pies were a staple of my Grandparents. This tinned delight of Steak and Kidney or other meaty varieties (or now I’ve looked into being a vegetarian they now have Veggie Balti and Cheese and Onion Pies now -going to give them a try!) graced the lunch time plate, with a healthy dollop of mash and veg. My Grandparents were a traditional couple having a ‘big dinner’ at lunchtime, so when my family and I used to visit, usually arriving around this time, we were greeted by these kind of smells of hearty filling dinners. Food in big tins or plastic pudding containers is something I will always associate with my Grandparents. When organising their home after they died, I was gifted their white and blue tin plates, and a tin bowl, something that would be desirable as vintage now! My Grandparents would use this tin bowl for collecting the scraps ready for the compost bin, good home made mulch for the runner beans. I now use this tin bowl everyday in my kitchen for the same purpose, it’s battered, the colour faded, and dented, but still fit for the same purpose.
The tin bowl is not in a prominent place in my home, or in a cabinet for display, it is a functional item, that is touched, emptied and washed everyday, but none the less is an important touch connection and ritual as a reminder of my Grandparents.
What items do you have in your home from a loved one, that you use everyday?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and in the everyday use grief as a way of creative expression. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
My Masters (and now expanding to PhD) focussed on everyday home objects and photographs that are kept after a bereavement in a family. I’m interested in what memories and stories, objects and photographs evoke, and why people choose to keep certain items around them in their homes.
I’d encourage others to share home photographs and objects in a similar vein that we have in our home now, that may relate to a loved one, or kept as a memento of a holiday for example. I’ll be sharing items from my home and archive and will include a little story about the associated meanings, memories and anecdotes I have, occasionally linking to readings that I’ve found useful, and you may too.
In the current global climate, many of us are working from and spending more time in our homes, and thinking this would be a good time for us to come together online as a community, sharing our memories, stories, objects and photographs from our homes. Connections to everyday objects and photographs that are important, valuable (not necessarily in a monetary way) as well as enriching our lives.
Those of you who have been following my blog and Masters journey, will be familiar with this mirror:
It belonged to my Grandparents, gifted to them as a Wedding present back in 1958. It has 12 sides, held by a short chain and circle, with clips attaching the mirror to the backing, something vintage now, definitely of the time, I’ve done some research into the manufacturer, most likely to be G-plan:
It was always a feature in my Grandparent’s home as long as I can remember, in the house they lived in from when I was young until I was 36. As kids we would dance and sing in front of it, put on Nan’s scarves and put makeup on in front of it.
I’ve been reading Brian Dillons ‘In the Dark Room’, and in his ‘Things’ chapter he talks about the wider associations to a kept object, going beyond what it is at face value, similar to the writings of John Berger who wrote about memories being non-linear. Objects and photographs allow us to focus on recall of memory, however not always working in a linear way, i.e different associations to an object or photograph at different times.
Sometimes the evoked memories through the object or photograph go far beyond the initial memory;
The mirror for me is symbolic as reflecting our family life, sharing the laughs and the sorrows, birthdays, the room in which it was hung, the other objects and photographs that surrounded it like a shrine of my family history. The smells that filled the room, the pie and mash dinners, fish and chips, tomato ketchup that sat opposite it on the table, the sweet smell of cake, hairspray and atrixo hand cream. Beyond the room in which the mirror was hung, was an ordinary terraced house that sat in an estate, in the early days had a conifer in the front garden, a short walk to the river. The mirror, now over 60 years old now sits in my home, reflecting my life, in my terraced home. It shares and reflects the people in my life, those who visit, the couple who visited me during my Open House, who had lived in my house some 40 years earlier. What memories the mirror could tell if it could speak.
I’ll be writing a blog soon on my Masters Research, and those wanting to join me on my journey through PhD; the focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and in the everyday use grief as a way of creative expression. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Until next time.
Wow! It’s been such a while dearest readers since my last blog, plenty of things keeping me busy. Medway Open Studios and Arts Festival (MOSAF) 2018 was a great platform for me at the start of my Masters, working through my initial ideas for the photo part of it and getting some fantastic feedback and critique from my visitors.
MOSAF 2019 was a ‘taster platform’ of my final batch of photographs to exhibit before choosing the final 4 for submission in September (formats have been chosen, more of this to come!). I had some great conversations with visitors around my research subject of exploring Personal Loss, Memory and Family, with photographs and objects after a bereavement (more info about it here). I am interested to see if there are any common themes shared that reflected my own experiences of loss in the family, and if there were any similarities in which objects and photographs we keep and the memories we share. My research has helped me navigate my own grief and the whole process has been, (as my research participants have told me), a good thing to ‘Hold space’ for others to also have that time for dedicated conversations.
The exhibition included 10 photos of both my family photos and others from my research participants, accompanied by their written memory about each object or photograph. Here is a taster of one of my exhibited photos:
Vase with wilting Flowers
A Vase sitting on the sideboard that was bought as a Wedding Gift for my Grandparents. The flowers wilting, losing their glorious bloom, the room lays silent, soon to be empty, a whisper in the echo of a memory.
[Grandparents home 2016]
I am also pleased that visitors to my MOSAF19 exhibition felt able to share their memories if they wished they could leave their thoughts on my memories corkboard. I loved chatting with all my visitors about this subject as I had done interviewing the participants for my research. A big thank you to all my MOSAF19 visitors and participants. If you would like to get involved in my future research, or just want to get in touch to share your views then contact me here.
In the week of MOSAF19 I was interviewed on BBC Radio Kent as part of their ‘Phone Tracker’, (2.28 in) this gave me a great platform not only to promote my exhibition but to also talk about my research. It’s amazing what points you can get across in 4-5 minutes!
So, what’s next?
I have the summer to write up my research and prepare for my MA exhibition, and very happy to have the ‘time off’ I’m quite enjoying this final stage. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off in summer since I was 14 years old, so I’m going to make sure this happens with much self-care as well as study. I’m also going to be enjoying taking more photographs, joining up with a few like-minded ‘togs for some photo walks, and may treat myself to a new lens or two!
I am, as ever, passionate about living well and ensuring that we have great photographs to keep along-side our memories, this is what our loved ones will cherish, I know I do.
On reflecting my research which I have really enjoyed doing and so passionate about someone said to me recently ‘Nikki you won’t get time like this again, so make the most of it’, and I plan to do just that.
Thanks to one of my visitors for this photograph:
What a great start to my Masters, and Nikki Price Photography will still be running in a business sense, but I’ve decided to take a small step back to concentrate on my studies. This choice of course isn’t an immediate concern for me as I’m not directing my time a million miles away from where my passion lies, and I have some smaller projects in the pipeline for 2018.
I’ve realised in writing this blog, that I had two pre-loaded draft blogs on:
- a literature list (in an attempt to encourage myself to write as I go along)
- and a two month review of where I am with my research
I won’t repost the whole blogs but here’s a little flavour for you:
The thing I’ve found with research and reading around a subject you are so passionate about, brings up all kinds of the thoughts and processes. I’ve found myself in a natural ‘rabbit hole’, wanting to keep delving into subjects and getting more and more excited about where it is leading me. I have been writing using good old fashioned paper and pen, and often let my thoughts wander having ‘revelations and ideas’ at times, so I always try to keep my observation journal on me. In many ‘how to’ guides I’ve seen advice like ensure you diarise time to just think, which I think is sound advice!
Great thinking places I’ve found are (I’ve also got Lauren Elkins Flaneuse book waiting in the wings to be read so hoping for some further inspiration):
- on a train -journeys over half an hour are best (great for when I travel to Uni)
- in a cafe – always a bonus for a long lunch
- in the shower -all best ideas are made here aren’t they?
So where am I now?
Three months further into my reading and I feel I’m getting to that research niche in that shadow, my thirst for knowledge and reading is growing, like I commented to my supervisor, ‘I loved that book so much I felt like I inhaled it!’ (speaking of Annette Kuhn’s Family Secrets). I’ve completed my first presentation and was comfortable doing it.
My research (no matter how wide I am reading at the moment) keeps pulling me to: using family photography (memory and narratives) as a means to researching Identity, Belonging, and Loss.
So in photography’s core concept of the ‘Rule of Thirds’ here are my top three (boy this has been hard!) key readings that have made a huge impact on me so far, and would encourage you to read them:
Annette Kuhn (1995) Family Secrets
Taking Autoethonography to the next level with this book, a straight talking 360 degree analysis of the authors family photographs, allowed me to think more about the ‘face value’ of the immediate photograph. This read has enabled me to think more about my childhood photographs, particularly those during my senior school years and to analyse them within the wider social context at that time, and my family unit. Kuhn’s reflection on her school uniform echoed that of my own, mother buying the size up so we ‘would grow into it’ (I’m sure many families consider this!) coming from a single parent family. I was also the first in my family to go to University, and all the expectations and feelings that surrounded this. Kuhn’s father was the photographer and yet it was her mother who was the instigator for the photos of Kuhn in various home made outfits, mirroring a matriarchal perception of mother as the nurturer, time keeper, and recorder of childhood moments. This also ignited my love of concepts of time travel, and awareness of time using photographs to allow us to metaphorically travel/connect with different points of time, Marc Triver notes that ‘a room needs a clock to denote the passing of time’ P185 in Berger’s book;
John Bergers (1967) Understanding a photograph
I read Bergers book at the same time I watched his 1972 BBC series of Ways of seeing. Both have completely transformed not only the way I am thinking about and analysing my own work, but art I see in many places. My connection to of art is greater, taking a 3 minute ‘dedicated’ time to ‘see’ work that I find of particular interest to me, looking deeper into what the artists message was, the context in which it was made, and having that critical reflection. I particularly enjoyed Berger’s diagrams on ‘Memory’ and its ‘non-linear’ way of looking at a photograph, in that recalling memories from photographs although constructed in a very chronological/linear way (in a hard copy of an album Birth through to before Death), the process of understanding/seeing a photograph happens in a very “radially” way “that is to say that an enormous number of associations leading to the same event” (P59). This allowed me to think that a photograph isn’t simply a static moment in time, but an artefact to revisit again and again, to enhance or obtain different meanings from it as Berger says “The appearances of the event photographed implicates other events, It is the energy of these simultaneous connections and cross references which enlarge the circle beyond the dimension of instantaneous information” (p91) i.e. a photograph allows for more interpretation, beyond what you can initially see.
The great thing about Berger’s work is his no-nonsense straight forward talk, and written words, that I find very accessible, de-mystifying the arena of ‘art’.
Roland Barthes (1982) Camera Lucida
Probably the key three things to come out of Barthes Camera Lucida is his analysis of the ‘Winter Garden’ (p63) photograph, the Punctum (p27) and Studium (p28). In his analysis of the Winter Garden, Barthes was searching for his mothers true identity, connecting with who she was before he was born. He suggested that ‘the photograph doesn’t necessarily say what is no longer but only for certain was has been’ (p85), in the case of his mother, she was at the Winter Garden, that is for certain, looking at the concepts of photographs moving across time, this would allow Barthes to now ‘see’ his mother as she was then. Although strange for me to say perhaps from coming from a visual perspective, I found the beautiful thing about his analysis and his connection to the photo was that there was no copy of it for the reader to see, as he notes ‘this photograph only exists for me, for you it would be nothing other than an indifferent picture’ (p73). The Punctum; that something within the photo that pricks your interest, and the Studium; allowing time to contemplate the photo, have been two simple concepts but inspirational ideas.
Along with Berger and Kuhn’s books this has changed the way I am seeing, I have revisited past work and family photographs, to really ‘see’ what is contained within. For Example; my Punctum in this Family photograph is the red coat I am wearing. This photo was in a collection kept by my late father, I didn’t recall the moment it was taken until I saw the photo, and the red coat immediately stood out to me ‘pricking’ my interest, the spending time (studium) to analyse it further.