“Death is dark to the mind. It cannot be reduced to the rational — neither thought, nor interpretation, nor even memories. It is through the expression of the inexpressible that art allows us to reach deep into our unconscious and touch this mystery”
– J. Earl Rogers
Ebony Finck won Life Framer’s Human Body theme last year with her delicate and ethereal portrait of her grandfather. It’s the kind of image that stops you in your tracks with its fragility, closing in for a moment and contemplating life and mortality – things bigger than you. The image comes from her series ‘Juncture’ of which she says – “Our mortality is the universal commonality that connects all of us. When death enters our lives, it can evoke uncertainty, fear and a torrent of emotions. As a loved one prepares to die, we are confronted with the realisation that we must look forward, and yet the past collides with the future, skewing it from view”.
We asked Ebony to share the story behind ‘Juncture’ with us.
I developed this series in my final year of photography school, which coincided with my grandfather being told he had 2 – 18 months to live. Grandad and I were very close, he lived next door for most of my childhood and helped raise me and my brother. He encouraged me to explore the world, ask questions, and always follow your heart. In my early 20’s we traveled together, and this experience only strengthened our bond. I view the series Juncture as our last trip, our last exploration.
At 28, I had never experienced death, and now I was faced with losing the most important man in my life. Picking up my camera seemed like the only thing I could possibly do to make sense of the situation. Over a cup of tea, I asked grandad what he thought about making this series, and he responded with a wicked grin and a “when do we begin”.
As it developed many people would ask me how he felt about being photographed. He said that people would shy away from looking at his body -once a very large man, at 85 he was now very skinny and this scared people. I think me photographing his skin made him feel more at ease. I saw his body as beautiful and his scars were a testament to his strength and determination, having kept cancer at bay for five years. His skin, thin and blemished, told a story of a full life.
As he grew weaker he was admitted to Palliative Care and most days I would visit. We would talk about his life, where he had traveled and the adventures he had experienced. We spoke about his late wife, his five children and how it felt to approach his death. He would laugh and cry and I would photograph. After our talks, I would write down our conversations or record them on my phone and I then traveled to the places he spoke of.
In September his portrait won the Life Framer award and as I shared this news with grandad, his eyes shone with pride. My grandfather passed away that November, only a week before my exhibition. He didn’t get to see the entire series but I know he would have been proud of our finished work.
I have begun photographing again, building upon this work. I am very grateful to have photography in my life.