Square Mile (Assignment Submission)

This is the submitted work for the first assignment – Square Mile. Finalising 12 images was very difficult as it has meant leaving out a number of photographs that expand on the experience.

I have based the assignment on the time we have spent at St Margaret’s Hospice in Yeovil with my son Rhys. He is hanging on at present but we don’t know how long for. 

The material presented here will be just part of a larger work that I will be developing in the future.

I have included a brief history at the end, after my evaluation of my work, to provide a context for this work but it is not part of the actual submission, that is covered by the photographs, bibliography and evaluation.

Comments and feedback are welcome.

 Photos

1 - Rhys leaning against car - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Rhys leaning against my car outside his Great Uncle’s house in Bristol while waiting for him to come back from the shops.
2 - Rhys' Chair - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Rhys’ empty chair at home
3 - St Margaret's Hospice - Sunflower Centre - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
St Margaret’s Hospice – view of the Sunflower Centre from the gardens
4 - St Margaret's Hospice - Stormtrooper visit - Stormtroopers and Scouts - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
St Margaret’s Hospice – Rhys is visited by two Stormtroopers and a Speeder bike Scout from the UK Garrison of the 501st Legion
5 St Margaret's Hospice - Round House - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
St Margaret’s Hospice – view of the Round House and water feature
6 - Rhys and Pebbles - MDG_3300 - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Rhys and Pebbles
7 - St Margaret's Hospice - Bird of Prey Experience - Barn Owl Flying towards camera - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
St Margaret’s Hospice – Rhys is visited by Sharanandys Bird of Prey. Barn owl flying towards camera
8 - St Margaret's Hospice - Bird of Prey Experience - Snowy Owl - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
St Margaret’s Hospice – Rhys is visited by Sharanandys Bird of Prey. Rhys and Snowy Owl
9 - Syringes - MDG_3550 - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Syringes and pill crusher
10 - Rhys Asleep Full Body - MDG_3554 - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Sleeping
11 - Butterfly - MDG_3406 - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Free at last
12 - Rhys (Bokeh) - 1024px Adobe 1998 72ppi
Goodbye, my beautiful, wonderful, brave son. Sleep tight, sweet dreams.

Contact Sheets

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Bibliography

  1. Campbell B The Dad Project. Available at http://www.brionycampbell.com/projects/the-dad-project/?overview (Accessed: 3rd September 2017)

Evaluation

This assignment has proven to be a challenge.My initial response to the brief was to limit to an area around my home and to photograph new things, the renovated church, the pub that has been converted into a veterinary surgery. However, that idea changed so that it revolved around the hospice waiting for my son to die.

Looking at Hunter’s work I found that using every day locations and focusing on people allows the viewer to relate to the situation and even put themselves into it.

From Holdsworth’s work I found that giving people a wider view of an environment allows them to get a better sense of it.

A third photographer I looked at was Briony Campbell. Her work “The Dad Project” had a similar theme to how my work has developed. From her work, I learned that it is possible to take what is still a taboo subject, and also an intensely private one and turn it into something special that honours the individual central to it.

To complete the brief, I used a combination of my Nikon D7200, with a variety of lenses, and my Samsung Galaxy S8. The Nikon allowed me more control over shutter, speed, aperture and ISO. The S8 allowed me to capture photos without being too intrusive. All of the photographs I took were freehand without the use of a tripod.

Editing of the final selection of images I’ve submitted for the assignment was done using Camera Raw (I shoot in RAW) and Photoshop. Editing of the images was mainly to do with adjusting the exposure, increasing and decreasing highlights and shadows, adjusting contrast and increasing colour saturation.

While editing the photographs I found that having a workflow and doing things in a controlled manner makes editing easier, quicker and the results more consistent.

Am I satisfied with what I’ve achieved? To a degree. Having to choose 12 images to submit was difficult. To do the project justice I needed closer to 20 images as some of the ones I’ve had to leave out give a fuller picture of what life has been like and my son’s last days.

In a similar way to Campbell I see this assignment becoming far more as it becomes a project in it’s own right that may possibly help other parents faced with losing their child.

The main areas I need to work on are getting my workflow right, I found myself editing the photos and then restarting the process a number of times. As part of this I need to be more disciplined with storing all of the images I use, selecting those I plan to edit and then keeping only the ones I plan on using for the final body of work.

I also need to become more familiar with the editing tools I’m using so that I can begin to develop a signature style.

Background

My son Rhys was born on January 7th 1998. He was just under a month pre-mature because his mum suffered from pre-eclampsia during the final stages of her pregnancy.  Shortly after he was born the doctors confirmed that he had a condition called Neurofibromatosis, something inherited from his mum.

For the first two years of his life the only scare we had with him was over his first Christmas and New Year when we thought he might have contracted pneumonia.

By the time he was three that scare would pale into insignificance for us as we dealt with that dreaded of words, Cancer.

Below is a summary of everything, medically, that has led us to where we find ourselves now.

Neurofibromatosis Type 1, since birth. No active treatment.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, diagnosed summer 2000. Chemotherapy.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (Relapse), summer 2005. Chemotherapy, cranial radiotherapy (1½ years).
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (Relapse), end 2007 / start 2008. Bone Marrow Transplant (May 2008).
Malignant peripheral nerve sheaf tumour (stomach), 2014. Surgery on stomach.
Malignant peripheral nerve sheaf tumour (stomach) – recurrence, 2015. Surgery on stomach.
Meningioma (left forehead area), 2014. Surgery – December 2015 to remove and replace affected bone with acrylic insert.
Seizure, 2016. Result of the surgery on his brain.
Malignant peripheral nerve sheaf tumour (left thigh), 2016. Surgery to remove, Post-operative radiotherapy.
Tumour (lung) – resulting from left thigh nerve sheaf tumour, 2017. Removal of wedge of lung by keyhole surgery.
Tumour (facial), 2017. Underwent radiotherapy in preparation for surgery to remove tumour and for facial reconstruction.
Tumour (brain), 2017. Days prior to starting radiotherapy for facial tumour, a series of fits led to the discovery of a brain tumour. This tumour could not be treated. Subsequent scans identified further tumours growing.

13 thoughts on “Square Mile (Assignment Submission)”

  1. Jenna, my heart goes out to you. To have the strength to put together such a powerful series of images inspite of the most adverse of personal circumstances, I cannot but admire your strength and courage. My absolute respect and salute to you. Am in tears looking at your series and I feel a part of it. Like you so rightly said, your project has definitely pulled the viewer into your personal space and be a part of it and experience it as if being present there. Its an extremely moving final edit and you have absolutely done a wonderful job of it. I cannot possibly put in words how emotionally powerful this series is. Thank you for letting us be a part of your one square mile. A great job done. Being a parent, I can understand what you must be going through. To come out with something like this despite of the pain and emotional turmoil that only you can understand is truly incredible and commendable. Hats off Jenna. My heart felt prayers to you and your son. Stay strong. You are an extremely strong woman. Sending you healing vibes. Peace and love to you.

    Like

    1. Archna,
      Thank you.
      The last 17 years has taught me how strong I am as a person. The last week in particular has tested that strength more than I ever dreamed it would get tested.
      Thank you, and the other students for sharing how it has made you feel. That’s something that the close friends and family who have seen them have been able to do, everybody has been doing their best to put a brave face on things, although everybody who has come to the hospice has at one time or another been in tears., which has allowed us to do in turn, what they have been doing for us, and provide comfort and support.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenna,
    Thank you to you and Rhys for sharing your ongoing story through this powerful series of photographs. I am certainly immediately drawn in to each image, and I find those of Rhys himself particularly affecting. Those of him in bed, and clearly very ill, show him clearly able to enjoy the storm troopers, and the barn owl.

    Pebble resting so lovingly with Rhys evokes emotion beyond words for me. I am so pleased you begin and end the series with wonderful portraits of Rhys smiling broadly to camera with such a twinkle in his eyes.

    Sharing these photographs now is a brave thing to do, but hopefully therapeutic as well. Story telling is so important, and photographs a powerful form of narrative. Thank you and Rhys again, and St Margaret’s Hospice.

    Like

    1. Hi Sarah.
      Thank you for leaving a comment.
      The stormtroopers and the owls were amazing things for him to experience. I’m glad that his enjoyment of them came across as his ability to communicate verbally has deteriorated to the point where even “yes” takes a lot of effort.
      Pebbles belongs to a friend. She used to have two dogs but one of them sadly died earlier this year. Pebbles is such a loving dog and willingly allowed us to lift her up and put her on the bed. Something the staff didn’t see but wouldn’t have objected to, we regularly have Patrick, the hospice cat, on chairs and beds.
      Taking, as well as sharing the photographs, has been very therapeutic as it’s given me something to focus on; something to go and do when I needed 5 minutes away from things.
      The start and end photos had to be included, even though they aren’t hospice related because they show him when at his mischievous and life-filled best.

      Like

  3. What a powerful series that takes us through some of the journey you and Rhys have been on, and are going through.
    There is so much potential for this to be developed into a larger personal project, and a project for other families.

    Workflow takes time, and we all do it our own way. There are some great resources to be found by searching google and youtube.

    May you all have joy and peace alongside your grief in these last days of Rhys’ life.

    Like

    1. Thank you.
      I’ve spoken with the vicar at our church and he’s said that if I wanted to do something exhibition based in the future then I can use the church.
      I do want to develop this into something that will help other families who might be faced with the decision of whether or not to have a loved one at home or in a hospice for their final days. A lot of people that have come to see Rhys at the hospice have been surprised by what they’ve found.

      I found a Guide to Lightroom on the shelves of our local Tesco. Even just going through the first couple of sections has been useful. I’d never considered the Collections facility before as a way to group photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you have that option with the vicar, and the potential to work with other families.

        The collection facilities are fab. You can move photos around, switch photos into and out of collections and your original remain in the original folder.

        I found it invaluable as a tool to put my assignment together.

        Like

  4. Jenna thank you, and thank you to Rhys, for sharing these photographs. For most people such things only happen to ‘others’. Perhaps if more people could share these experiences perhaps there would be a little more caring, understanding and compassion in the world. Mike.

    Like

    1. Hi Mike.
      Thanks for your comment.
      One thing we’ve learned over the years as a family is that when you get together with someone who has shared experiences it breaks down the bonds between you very quickly and you find that you have a much more open, honest and supportive relationship with them. No matter what the differences between you might be.

      Like

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