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The Dad Project – Briony Campbell

Briony Campell’s project is powerful and moving; about her coming to terms with her father’s impending death by recording his life and death in illness. It is so personal that the photographs transcend themselves to become part of the sad lyric of illness and death, love and loss. They read like a great song, from personal experience – not a fake construct.

Source: brionycampbell.com by Briony Campbell
Source: brionycampbell.com by Briony Campbell

Campell provides text with the images to tell the story of the images and her father. Without this personal interpretation, I feel the story would be untold. The images would mean what they mean to the viewer, not what they were intended to mean by the artist. The connection of light with hope, and later with consolation, followed by darkness and death make a powerful link between the pictures and the human condition.

I’m once more left with a feeling that photography is closer to music than the visual arts – a visual equivalent to the sound track of a life or place that is not quite the same without a good lyric. A view from the inside that is difficult to fake.

Similarly, Eugene Smith’s groundbreaking 1948 photo documentary contains wonderful images of personal moments but viewed from the outside in. The textual context is factual and descriptive, it somehow serves to distance us from the moments shown – we feel like observers not being allowed to access the truth of emotional content; ‘what does it feel like’ is missing. With different text, perhaps I would feel closer – a very contrasting viewing experience to Campbell’s work.

Campbell says, in her introduction to the work:

Being a good daughter to my dying dad was tricky. I struggled to find the balance between dedication to his needs and distraction from my grief.
At first the idea of introducing a camera into this equation seemed unwise, but eventually I think it became the solution.

This is the story of an ending without an ending.
And I hope it always will be.
This is my attempt to say goodbye to my Dad with the help of my camera.

I think she means that while life has an ending, the story can be retold without ending (the images bring another dimension to the story, preserving passing moments), but also perhaps that the story of human life, of love and loss as a never-ending narrative, repeating with each generation. Without a feeling of love there is not a feeling of loss – could it be that this is what Campbell references when she says ‘I hope it always will be’.


Briony Campbell [website]. The Dad Project. Available from: http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/the-dad-project/ [accessed 7.12.15]

Time [website]. Eugene Smith. The Country Doctor. Available from: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ [accessed 7.12.15]

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