Lydia Goldblatt

2020 - Ongoing

A week before lockdown we scattered my mother’s ashes. These pictures begin Fugue, prefacing a body of work in which mothering runs as a central theme.

Before my children were born, I made Instar (2016), a project that explored transitional states and creativity, both natural and man-made. A private sub-text to this was the possibility, the hope, that I would become a mother. Before that, I made Still Here (2012), about, primarily, my parents’ aging and my father’s death.

In the 3 years since my children were born, I have not made a creative response to the metamorphoses occasioned by their arrival. Ideas, words, notes have been written down, a few pictures made, but somehow it was so much that it was too much.

This year the entire world experienced a monumental metamorphosis. We have radically changed our ways of living. We have all borne witness to this change, reflected upon it, documented it. We have lived in our personal spheres, each small world becoming something bigger, a bit like the immersion of new motherhood.

In making work about this time, I draw on my own small sphere, a radius of about 50 metres, 4 people, and a handful of streets. I am incredibly privileged to be able to do so. My home and my camera have both offered places of refuge and safety. The uncertainty and anxiety of Covid, the staggering loss it has brought, are set against the personal grief of losing my mother, coming to terms with being a mother myself, and the struggle to understand what that means.

The pictures in Fugue meander, moving back and forth through the universal signs of routine, love and care that bear witness to family life. Chronological time, normally linear and clear, is suspended. It merges with emotional duration, more scattered, circular in nature. The work mirrors the non-linear evergreen of a three year old’s consciousness, present in every tense.

Intimacy and distance are key. Photographs made at home are offset with photographs made outside at night, tapping into the dissonance between domestic tranquillity and a sense of invisible unease. Confronted with so much that is explicitly out of bounds – people, touch, movement, the ‘normality’ of everyday life – another, more shrouded exile, is exposed. In such close, sometimes blissful, sometimes painful proximity to my children, I am aware of all that remains unknown between us. We are fused and separate, present and absent, elusive. I work on film, so the process too is blind and unknown – like the context, an invisible virus, marked by inaccessibility and intangibility.

The longing to be part of other lives, when physical touch has been forbidden, serves as catalyst, so that the act of photographing outside provides moments of connection. The perfect spring blossoms, the windows, the empty playgrounds articulate a psychological suspension in which both joy and fear oscillate. Photography’s ability to hold what is significant – darkness and light, void and presence – weaves kinship through the enforced distance.

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