Originally posted to @thenewartgallerywalsall Instagram page
Two significant things happened in 2021, in the period after losing my dad. This is the first...
Clearing up one day, my mum came across a box in her attic full of old film photographs and their negatives. At first she assumed they'd be more photos of my childhood, and handed them to me. However I quickly realised these weren't photos I'd seen before. These photos had belonged to my dad, and largely depicted a life I'd heard about in stories but never seen. Photos taken by and of my dad in the lifetime before I was born, and before he met my mum.
Some elements I recognised: his parent's house being the same house I visited Nana and Grandad in as a kid. The stone steps in the hedge-lined garden, the sun-soaked net curtains, and my Nana's unflinching taste in interior décor, all sparked little jolts of memory and nostalgia like static shocks in my head. Then it all folded into a strange soup of comfort and sadness, as old memories of family and security mingled with new memories of loss.
Other photos were completely new to me, but finally gave visuals to the stories I'd heard Dad tell me a thousand times. The dinners he'd have in the houses of his University friends (where he'd unknowingly eat and enjoy a bowl of snake soup), the holidays he'd take around Europe with his cousin, the boat trip he was on where the captain threw bottles of booze into the sea for them to dive in and retrieve.
Growing up, my mum was always the primary photo-taker - the one that made us stand and smile in front of attractions, or the mantlepiece, or in my uniform on the first day of school. Dad always seemed unfussed, even peeved, by this ritual. But these photos were his. They were the things he felt were worth capturing. Funny things, beautiful things, intriguing things... These were the things that dad wanted to remember. Flicking through the stacks of film allowed me to feel his personality again when I thought I had felt all there was to feel. I was obsessed, fascinated by the knowledge that even though my dad was gone there was still more of him to discover. I hadn't seen it all yet.