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Photographer Deborah Parkin grieves when her two children return to school after the long summer holiday. She has now compiled a sequence of striking – and possibly controversial - pictures of her son and daughter that will go on show at Theatre by the Lake for the whole of September.
Twenty photographs will hang on the walls of the Friends’ Gallery. They are strange, sometimes eerie and are bound to prompt strong reactions from all who see them; they are not standard family snaps. One shows Parkin’s daughter gazing towards Cat Bells on the far side of Derwentwater; in another she wears a decorative rabbit’s head; others show her son reading or sleeping in long grass.
“Why September is the Cruellest Month? Because it is the time when I have to let my children go back out into the world again without me,” Parkin writes in her introduction to the exhibition. “The summer holiday is now over.
“It’s a month that, for me, symbolises the passing of time. Back to school, back to their clubs, back to routine, progressing, moving on. Something we all embrace and want for them, but secretly we want to hold back time a little bit longer. We can’t stop time but we can freeze it for a split second in our images.
“These portraits started during the summer of 2010 when I came to the stark realisation that my children are growing up and, to a point, away from me, and that time passes and is never recaptured – we are only left with memories and photographs.
“The images are taken on a 4x5 large format camera, using instant black and white film that requires me to slow down, to observe, allowing us to collaborate as mother and child. It is a very intimate, intense process. I wanted to capture moments of our school holidays together whether it be in play, at the mountains, at the sea, moments of contemplation, sleeping, sulking; moments that don’t necessarily record the act but will trigger the memory and emotion we felt in years to come when we look back and hold these images in our hand. I am photographing for the future as well as the present.”
Parkin works in a variety of photographic forms, from medium and large format cameras using film, to the Victorian Wet Plate Collodion Process; her work is in total contrast to today’s instant digital snaps. “I love to work in a slow and considered way and one in which I collaborate with each child who sits before me,” she adds.
To complement the show, Theatre by the Lake has invited writers from the region to produce – within two weeks – poems in response to Parkin’s pictures. The poets will then read their work at a free informal event in the Friends’ Gallery at 12.30pm on Saturday September 22.
September is the Cruellest Month opens at Theatre by the Lake on 1 September.