Home Is Where The Garden Grows - PhMuseum

Home Is Where The Garden Grows

Erinn Springer

2018 - Ongoing

Wisconsin, United States

Home Is Where The Garden Grows is a story of life through loss.

In May 2018, my sister Julie, her husband Travis, and their two young children moved back to my mother's home in rural northern Wisconsin. In January 2019, Travis died by suicide. My family has lived on the same land since they homesteaded a slice of this prairie in the mid-1800s. Much like genetic memory, I believe land possesses a cellular cache charged with the toils of its history. The secluded 10-acre pasture and home where my siblings and I were raised has been the focal point of our lives and more recently, the locus of coexisting absence, abundance, growth, decay, innocence, and agony. The fields and woodlands surrounding the house became both an oasis for recovery and a cage of isolation; palpable beauty juxtaposed against imperceivable illness. Through the series, we witness transformation through both emotional and environmental metamorphosis: the detritus of a life claimed by depression, the inevitable grip of age, and the discoveries of children who know nothing of death and spirituality other than the nature they explore. These images have become an insightful portrait in the reckoning of loss, the fragments of hope, and the perennial nostalgia that reveals itself when we look at ourselves through the lens of a land that will eventually reclaim us all. As an ongoing, ever-evolving portrait of my family, this work has become my way to grasp irreversible events, accept the notion of time, and attempt to understand life through the beauty and death that is inherently part of every living being.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause for death in the United States. In 2019, suicide claimed the lives of 47,500 Americans and over 12 million fell victim to suicide ideation. Mental illness casts a shadow on every gender, every race, and every age and stigmas associated with outreach contribute to undiagnosed cases leading to thousands of preventable losses, like Travis. In 2020, the CDC found that “U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.” The effects of compromised mental health span a wide spectrum from the severity of suicide to substance abuse and the struggles of chronic anxiety. Regardless of form, it is important that mental illness be discussed in ways other than by statistics. Home Is Where The Garden Grows is a universal story speaking to the challenges of overcoming collective histories in the wake of unforeseen trauma from an undiagnosed mental illness. By opening this diary, I hope to give voice and visualization to the effects of mental illness with arms reaching far beyond the specifics of our story and limits of our home. This search for symbolic evidence through film and light is a testament to the unique position that photographs occupy in our perception of transience and truth. As expressed by Susan Sontag, “To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt.”

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