Yufan Lu

2020 - Ongoing

Tianjin Shi, China

Grandma passed away in an August evening. While changing the shroud for her, I could still feel the warmth left on her body. The warmth was so real that death seemed unreal.

After she was diagnosed late stage cancer in January, the family had to learn to accept the farewell in a difficult way. We saw her body wasted away day by day, but apart from keeping company there was nothing we could do.

I began to use the thermal camera to explore the latest public monitoring measure in China in the midst of the pandemic. As I became familiar with the new visual tool, I began to use it to capture the trace of heat instead of living creatures themselves. I couldn’t take any photographs for a while after grandma passed away, and one day, before I realized it, I was using the thermal camera to record grandma’s trace.

As my own remembering ritual, I used my own body to follow grandma’s trace in the house, on the objects and in the family photographs. I feel that by doing so, I became closer to her than any time in my life.

The photos are accompanied with a letter to grandma. The title is "Grandma:" with a colon mark as a way of addressing her in the letter.

I intend to make a little book as the final output of the work.

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  • Grandma, I didn't know a funeral can be so exhausting.

  • No one was in the mood to talk afterwards. We came back home and the house seemed even emptier. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want to sit in your “spots” - right side of the bed, chair by the table where you sit on for daily reading, the cane chair where you do your daily foot tapping exercise on, your favorite spot on sofa for watching TV

  • - as if those spots were still saved for you.

  • Every morning at 6 o’clock, you would watch the health program on JSTV. You kept notes that accumulated by the notebook year by year, until there was no more space in the drawer. Jun 22, 2020. That was the day you wrote your last note.

  • Do you know, grandma (we believe you must already know) at your funeral,  we cremated some of your favorite objects beside you. Like how you used to dearly used them, I touched your belongings for the last time. I know memories of these objects will eventually blur, but they’ll never disappear. We want these objects to continue keeping you company, although None of us could tell where people go after they die.  

  • Grandma. Regrets linger. I regret not responding to your questions with more patience; being clumsy at expressing love.

  • I can remember you hobbling to me and handing me a newly-washed, big and red apple as your way of showing love.

  • Your favorite hawthorn tree’s fruits are mature again. I regret having not made more memories with you.

  • Now I learn about you from mom and the family album. During your last days, we printed some of your photos - photos from the old days, photos I took of you when you felt well. We put them on your bedside. Whenever you felt better, you’d look at them with us. I remember you said while watching them: “这老婆儿挺会拍照的。”

  • During your last days, I’ve been thinking of so many ways to preserve a beautiful image record of you. But only after I could never photograph you again, did I realize: As long as it’s you in the photo, how could it not be beautiful?

  • I stroke the image of you, trying to trace you in my mind - just like you once held me with your hands, leaving your warmth on my body.

  • The photos were later made into a slideshow for people to remember you at the funeral. Mom watched it again and again. She then told me that she finally understood what is it that I do. Grandma, you were always such a great model, satisfying all my needs, even when some of them may have been strange to people of your age. Thank you, grandma. Now I know, it must have been because you've been understanding me all along.