From October 2010-11, I lived with Derek and Kevin Cooper in a house share in Cardiff. Derek is Kevin’s father. On the day I moved in I found out that Derek had recently been diagnosed with cancer of the throat. Reflexively, I asked if I could make some portraits of him and Kevin, and they kindly obliged. As time quickly passed and Derek’s treatment persisted, I continued to document the damage inflicted upon Derek’s body and his eventual recovery, until March 2011, when Derek’s treatment formally ended.
Kevin was, like myself, only twenty one years old when Derek was diagnosed. To become the primary carer for your father at that age must have been extremely difficult and frightening for Kevin. For my part, I don’t believe I recognised the gravitas of the situation for Derek and Kevin, but simply reacted automatically to the situation, using the camera as a means to objectify Derek’s illness and distance myself from his suffering, which I struggled to comprehend.
With the benefit of hindsight these images, for me, serve to crystallise my core beliefs in one of photography’s primary strengths; the documentation of life lived. As Susan Sontag wrote in On Photography;
Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos… All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.