a look at my first personal Documentary project
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
I often get asked how I chose this niche. Truth is, there’s not a single path that led me here, just a series of trials and errors, personal interests and an appreciation of the unconventional idea of what’s considered beautiful. The only thing that has been consistent over the past decade is my love for photography and capturing genuine human emotions/interactions. If I had to pin-point though, there is one additional contributor that sparked my curiosity and love for documentary storytelling.
In April of 2016, after some months of focusing on learning street photography, I wanted to try applying the concept and technique to something more personal than just photographing strangers on the street. I decided to document the day-to-day life of my grandparents. I was aware that it would be a very emotional experience because of their circumstances, but I felt in my gut that it was something I needed to do despite it being a half-baked idea.
By taking a documentary approach, I knew I needed to be ready 100 percent of the time because a moment could be gone within seconds. There's no posing or staging a shot, and certainly no re-do's with this style of photography. Once a moment is gone, it's gone.
Now, on to their story...
My grandfather suffered a severe stroke in the spring of 2012, leaving him paralyzed on the right side of his body and impairing his memory and his speech. He was only 77 years old at the time and doctors gave him a 15 percent chance of survival. From the intensive care unit to the nursing home, my grandma never left his side, and ultimately she took it upon herself to take care of him at home full-time. She practically nursed him back to health - taught him how to write, do basic math and, most importantly, read. My grandpa is nothing without his books, so regaining that ability was crucial for his recovery and mental health.
My grandma has always been a very headstrong, independent woman (who up until her late seventies would paint her own kitchen, and scrub the floors on her hands and knees because “no one could get it as clean” as her). I slowly saw her lose momentum and pieces of herself in this new role of caretaker. It was very unusual and heartbreaking to witness.
I knew deep down that despite the obstacles they were facing, there was more to their story than just their struggle. After all, at the time of this project, they had just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.
I photographed this series over the course of six months - visiting them from anywhere between 30 minutes to four hours at a time. Being there solely to observe without offering a helping hand was challenging (to say the least), but my grandma and I had agreed that I’d stay behind the camera.
My grandma was consumed by daily routine and didn't understand why their life would be so interesting for me to photograph. And to be completely honest, she did not even want to look at the completed project. I think it was too painful for her to see how much they've aged and what their life has become. Despite her personal apprehensions, I think she always understood why this was so important to me and I have always been grateful for her openness to allow me in to photograph them at a very vulnerable time in their life.
I completed the project nearly five years ago, and those years have brought on a lot of change. My grandpa's already-limited walking has worsened, as has his speech. He's more emotional and more easily displeased - though it doesn't take much to put a smile back on his face. Overall, he requires more assistance and care. My grandma still moves along, but at a much slower pace. It's almost as if he is her reason to keep pushing forward, to keep moving. Covid has only made things worse because neither of them has been able to leave the house much, which has taken an emotional toll on them both.
This body of work serves as my constant reminder of my grandparents' incredible resilience, friendship and love; a reminder of their quirks, what their home looked like, what they looked like - when they were just a little younger, just a little stronger. A memory that I will fondly hold on to forever. It lives not just for me, but for my family (their kids and grandkids).
I ultimately got into this particular genre of photography because I understood firsthand how powerful it is to capture a particular moment in time and to embrace the beauty of ordinary (and sometimes vulnerable) moments. This was my driving force when starting this business - I wanted to be able to help my clients preserve the moments they want to remember for a lifetime.