I am the eldest son, of the eldest son, of the eldest son. That’s what my grandfather used to call me. I don’t know if it meant something of sentiment to him or if he was merely stating literal fact; he was never very good at showing affection, although I knew ultimately he loved me.
My grandfather was a kind man, but he was also an insecure man - perhaps a jealous man. He came from a home that had “but two pennies to rub together” and against odds he found a trade and built a comfortable life. He wasn’t educated in the academic sense, but he was street-smart and interested in the world. My father, his transition from a child into an adult, a difficult transition in anyone’s life, became a tug-of-war of sorts - a struggle for dominance between the two, likely due more to my grandfather’s insecurities than my father’s wish for self-actualisation. It wasn’t until shortly before my grandfather’s passing that I feel their relationship was reconciled.
There are traits that I feel I have inherited, passed down like unwanted heirlooms along the patriarchal lineage of my family; insecurity, mistrust, anxiety, stubbornness, I see these parts of my father and my grandfather in who I am today. I learned how to be from them, and they hold in themselves the attributes from which I judge all men.
Like many families, ours has a collection of photo albums and video in which the idyllic ‘good’ times have been recorded, ‘safe’ in their materialised, physical forms from the inevitable passage of time. What I find most interesting about these albums, these collections of memories, is that they tend to illustrate one aspect of a picture of someone’s life. Photography to me is as much about what is included within the frame as it is about what is omitted from it; this Inclusion is to Omission as Memory is to Forgetting. Viewing cinefilm of my father as a child, most of which I know to have been recorded by my grandfather, I am reassured at once that there was love and kindness, I see it - I am also aware of the moments omitted; those not wished to be remembered. It is these gaps in which I am most interested, these nuanced and not necessarily always ‘bad’ spaces of complex emotion.
In Greek mythology, the River Lethe is the river of forgetting, or Oblivion. Souls of the recently deceased would drink from this golden-yellow river in order to forget their Earthly lives and begin the process of transition into the afterlife via reincarnation. My grandfather was born in a small cottage behind a feeder canal near the Blackweir on the River Taff, and it is here that his ashes were scattered after his death.
This collation of images is my own process of reconciliation with who I am and whom I have come from. Using this cinefilm, I have curated my own ‘snapshots’ to form a portrait of my own identity through the characters of my father and my grandfather. Utilising the descriptive and memory/storage capabilities of contemporary technologies, I include and omit visual and textual information as a means to elicit in the viewer a sense of imagination and recollection; replicating the effects of inaccuracy as related to the degradation of memory - and the subsequent passage of time along with it.