The Twenty Years Since Daddy Left
“Unconventional, artful, expressive. Angry, defiant, prideful. Cool, compassionate, independent.” These words were written by me to describe my mother, Rae, for her 2006 obituary. Mom was a freethinking, opinionated woman, and her experiences after my parents’ divorce create a narrative that has both personal and universal meaning. The Twenty Years Since Daddy Left spans 1978 to 1998, which correspond with my first two decades of involvement in photography. When my dad left and moved out of state with another woman and her children, it was a year of deep despair for my mother. A homemaker for twenty-seven years who could not drive, my mother was thrust into a life she almost chose to end.
My mother’s and my life are inextricably intertwined, and these photographs depict moments chronicling our lives together (as well as with my older sister JoRae). This series explores my mother’s personal evolution, my photographic journey and our mother/daughter relationship as we adapted, changed and evolved over time.
Accustomed to visits over the years with my camera in hand, she reluctantly gave me free access to photograph her. Eventually, my mother, an undiscovered writer and poet, began collaborating with me. Writing in her own hand on selected proof prints, she wrote short captions about what she was thinking and feeling about herself or the experience when each image was made. Together, in 2005, we revisited The Twenty Years Since Daddy Left series. Suffering from dementia, she spoke and wrote in broken, convoluted sentences. In spite of her diminished speech and understanding, she was able to focus on these final images of herself and write captions. One caption read, “I am looking to me, too much, for old, maybe, good and bad. Look in your eyes, come back.”