13: The project that got away by Jacqui Booth

Some projects fall by the wayside, this was one, though it did carry on for a few months until life took over in different ways.

Today, R is 15 and to have a record of him morphing daily into this proto adult would have been pretty amazing, but I acknowledge that it was a tall order and there were many other things to do. I became aware, particularly as the year went on, that I was mainly taking a snap before running out of the door. It was a difficult time. But it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of hope, does it?

13

And so it begins. My youngest child is 13.  And age arbitrarily plucked out of the ether as significant. He's a boy, my 2nd. My eldest child will turn 16 soon and has been taking up most of my attention to be fair.  He's good company and has exams coming up. This leaves this child, as usual, a little overlooked.  He amuses himself well.  He is difficult to spend time with unless you share his obsessions.  Today is a milestone as he's spent most of it with a friend. C is still here, playing games on the PC in a downstairs room whilst R plays on his own PC upstairs. This is their fun.

I am his mother. I do not know him entirely.  He is a child of the internet, of frustrations, of his obsessions and of school.  He is a child that likes to avoid things if he possibly can.  I am waiting for him to mature now - to turn the corner into being an adult.  I can't remember when it should happen, but it needs to soon.  I shall mourn the loss of my little boy. Today I perhaps feel more emotional about it than I ever have.  I accept it and I shall cope.  He needs to grow and I shall be there to help him.  Hanging around, on call, for when I'm wanted most intensely.  Hanging back to give him the space he needs otherwise.  Discovering which of the gaps I can use for myself and how.  Unravelling. Negotiating this new reality. Gently ushering him towards becoming a man I'm happy to call my son.

He has surprised me by agreeing to be part of this project, even by being imaginative and enthusiatic. There will be a photo a day. A photo that seems suitable for us, that day.  He won't always look happy.  They may not be flattering to our relationship. They will change over time. We may get bored. But we will try and we hope to be honest to you, the onlooker, without oversharing.

I'm sure the idea isn't unique. I don't know when or how I shall share it. It is a story of a mother and her son. We shall influence each other throughout but I hope that it will be an insight into our story and an irreplaceable account of this female mammal rearing her male offspring.

13 No.1 Canon 7d

We're at the Great Central Railway.  It's his 13th birthday and we've been here many times before.  This place will soon be obliterated to make way for an extension to the line.  He knows I love it here and never complains about me poking around, taking photos.  He skips onto some steps. They're a smidge dangerous but he's okay.  We like the Sleeper logo and he chooses a pose intended to mock the tangerine horror of the recently inaugerated Donald Trump, who is both a figure of fun and something genuinely scary to him.

It's going to be a roller coaster of a year.

They call it progress by Jacqui Booth


 “When we destroy something created by man, we call it vandalism. When we destroy something created by nature, we call it progress.” -Ed Begley Jr.

Nope, I've no idea who Ed Begley Jr. is.  An American actor, says Wikipedia, but I liked the words in relation to these photographs of the local railway sheds.  Clearly, the scene has been 'created by man' (I've never seen a woman working in the sheds - they seem to be assigned to period dress and tea duty only in this microcosm), though I'd argue that it was nature enough.  Every time I visit the Great Central Railway, it's not the trains that fascinate me, it's this area of ramshackle storage containers full of useful odds and ends that eventually become restored engines.  Every time I'm allowed to wander through the sheds, smell the oil and peep at the work in progress, the tools and the workbenches I appreciate the access...and the people working there wonder why I'm taking photos.  "We had some students in here once taking photos..." they'll say, totally unaware of how special this unpretentious environment is.

I took these photos a nearly two years ago and since then I've had little time to devote to such things.  I haven't now.  I want to be studying but I'm cleaning the house ahead of Christmas, which is long overdue and hindered by a back that needs to be a little stronger for such things. Still, I'm making progress in my microcosm, though it's influenced by what I think a house should appear to be, criticisms from family and ideas about home style (mostly ignored) rather than simply providing a safe, warm environment for my family and friends. Tools and guitars will be moved, offcuts of wire and piles of sawdust eradicated, albeit temporarily. My own clutter will be tamed. Still, until tarpaulin chic is fashionable, it's probably for the best.

Lacuna by Jacqui Booth

"All those places
Where I recall
The memories that grip me
And pin me down"

Silence, by Polly Jean Harvey


And then one day the thing I was carrying turned to nothing...a void.

All I felt was the emptiness.  It hung there like an alien spaceship, between the solidity of my surroundings.  It took up residence, adapting its shape to fit without spare.

I could be with people but alone and with an almighty disturbance. A vast cavity silently confronted me, haunted me.  I'm not sure I had any desire to fill it, not just then. It was a cruel and necessary step. What once kept it at bay was no longer for me, was not mine.

The cavity was cold, it hurt. It sprang up to mock my mistakes and my selfish decisions.

It shall always be ready to occupy the gaps.

There we were by Jacqui Booth

Well, there's a thing.

I never added the photos from my trip to Cornwall to my website.

It all seems so long ago.

The photo of the astounding view from the master bedroom came up on Facebook memories on Saturday morning...and I wonder how it could have been just a year ago, and writing now...well, it could be a decade.

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It was one hell of a trip.  Come to Cornwall, Tim said.  I was newly qualified to drive, and more than ready to take advantage of the situation. I booked a motorway driving lesson and secured the use of my then partner's car...packed a bag, made a flask of coffee and set off.

I vividly remember arriving. Tim emerged out of the night and plonked himself into the passenger seat. He was so out of breath and nearly soaked to the skin. I felt terrible that he'd had to come out and was obviously worried for his health. The weather was horrendous. It was pitch black. He guided me to our digs, a way-too-beautiful-for-the-likes-of-me house, encouraging me to take it slowly. It was only later that I learned that I was basically driving along a dirt track on a cliff edge.  I dumped my bags and we got soaked on the way to the pub for 'supper'.  Then he blooming well woke me up with tea at sunrise! To be fair, watching the light dappling the ocean was wonderful.

It was pretty damn thrilling to be able to make my way to some of my favourite places under my own steam, and to take Tim with me as a bonus. He does astonishingly well to be dragged around the countryside by me. Lanyon Quoit is a favourite of mine and made a striking setting for Tim. I was able to vaguely revisit an idea I'd had for our first shoot. I wanted to catch a sort of childish innocence, though doing this whilst watching out for the arrival of new tourists kinda meant that taking time to perfect the shot, as well as having Tim laid on a cold rock in November detracted from this!  We also headed to Madron Well, a place I innocently stumbled upon perhaps fifteen years ago.  Sadly, I'd worn him out by the Men-au-tol which was a shame, but he graciously gave me the time to run from the car up the track and spend a few exhilarating minutes there.  My Men-au-tol moment, if you like.

Anyway, as Tim says in his more timely account of events, we had a damn good few days.  I still think about them with amazed fondness. We talked. We talked a lot about many things. He spent a very long time finding ways to help save my relationship with the father of my children. He really did try. The relationship lasted about three month months more then we split for good. That's not to say that Tim failed. His intelligent, endlessly kind and well considered words stay with me.

And so things have been necessarily forgotten, buried, neglected. Domesticity has overwhelmed me. But strange things happen. I've met a man who has insisted that today I leave what I'd identified as my new priorities behind and pick up where I inadvertently left off all those years ago...except it's twelve months. Twelve tiny months.



All my published Tim pics, both alone and with Al Brydon, can be gandered at here.

Slight return by Jacqui Booth

I've been gone this past year.  I've had things to do. Fortunately until recently the Inside the Outside Collective and Tim Andrews kept things ticking over with exhibitions of my photos in London and Brighton, but at home in Leicester I lost weight and stopped going out.  I found out some pretty bad things about my new spread-way-too-thin self and actually some good things too.  I now have sole care of two other human beings and so I cope.

This has meant that I've not been able to dwell on taking photos. I remember at the early stages one person saying that I would have to give up such 'frivolities'. I already had in effect, but I was angry.  This was something that meant so much to me. Why should I be a drudge, a cook, a mother*, a worker, a cleaner and nothing else?  In reality as I sit here listening to the washer, with food that needs to be put away in the kitchen and hair that needed dying a month ago it's really not viable, but there's not one day that has passed that I don't remember that there was something more.

So, time to step into the way back machine. Back when I still had an almost reckless sense of adventure that I'm hoping will still be there when I regain some freedom both physically and mentally. During my first solo holiday with kids, I had to be coaxed up Snowdon by my eldest child, but I'm getting stronger.

This is Denmark, from July 2016.  I've already posted some film shots of this trip, but this is what I found and chose to record digitally.  Thanks to John Blakemore and Joseph Wright for a hand with the sequencing, whilst on a Bookmaking course at the Photo Parlour in Nottingham, though admittedly the raw materials were seriously lacking.  I watched the other photographers sets coalesce into something meaningful, but mine just wouldn't.  So, let's get rid and move on at last!




* I could actually argue that being a mother is pretty fucking important, but it's still not really seen that way, is it?