Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Being Afraid

This post is not specifically related to halloween, although I suppose by looking in to the darkness you could consider it on-topic. Well, today was a rained torrentially all day, we built a fire, cosied up on the sofa and watched a film.  We watched Up. The children had seen it before. I hadn't. And I was not expecting to be reduced to a blubbering wreck within minutes of watching it and then finding myself unable to shake off my morosity for the rest of the day.

It was one of those well-written stories where it talks at one level to children, but the adult messages were so poignant. I was so sad.  My youngest tried to reassure me, 'don't worry mummy, they aren't real life'. Why was I feeling so rubbish?...I think the film touches on universal fears we are afraid to think about and by fast forwarding through life, distilling it to its bare essentials, the film makes it difficult for you to ignore them...And that got me thinking about fear and what we're afraid of and whether by recognising and addressing those fears they no longer command a presence. But we're human and such an ask is probably too much. However, perhaps it is something you could explore photographically. I quite like that idea. Perhaps the first step in this instance would be for me to acknowledge the fear of my fears that the film mobilised in me. They are, I warn you, a little morose.  They all relate, in part, to the impermanence of life and certainty of death and I am sure are common to many.  I fear that:

- I won't know how I will die and if it will be painful and prolonged.
- I may lose a loved one
- I will never know what is after life (while alive at least!)
- I may have regrets
- the years take you towards old-age, deterioration and certain death
- ill-health or bad things may happen to loved ones or myself
- the everyday routines of life may drain the joy of youth away
- quality of life may actually be preferable to quantity
- I'll be old before I know it
- my children may not like me when they grow up
- I may reach old age and feel disappointed with myself

So, a film, ironically with the title Up, made me feel hopelessly down and unexpectedly face my own fears of death...honestly!! I would have been better watching an '18' classified psycho-thriller! I know death has been written about extensively in the context of photography but one cannot ignore the cruel irony and slightly disturbing 'truth' derived from the permanence of a photograph and how it makes a mockery of our own temporarity.

The video footage above was taken in 2006 with what was then a new camera with video capability. It was a 'tester' video, to see how the camera worked...nothing more. Yet now, all three subjects in this video are no longer here. Whilst not wanting to state the bleeding obvious, they are though, right here in this video. I'm not making much sense, but giving this a little thought, I can see that to address the fear of death itself, through photography, could be cathartic. Anyway, I'm not sure how, or if, this is relevant or helpful to my study, certainly not for the moment, but it may be something to consider at some point in the future...given that the subject of 'death' will be relevant forever more, I guess there's no rush!!


  1. Hi marmalade,

    Life goes in cycles as you know, Automn is a down cycle closed in winter and then comes the renewal with spring.
    Death is something very democratic, not only because it will come certainly to all of us, but also because we all share the same fear in front of it. These two things join us with men of every past and future time ever.

    I also fear death, but I try to rationalise my fear thinking that in nature everything dies. Death is what allows new things to replace the old ones. Death is inherent to nature and nature is everything.....I feel well in nature, therefore it can not be so bad after all.......

    Not of much help, I know, but be are not alone.....and there is nothing to fear but ourselves.

    Kind regards

  2. Hiya and thanks for your thoughts Leo. Maybe you're right, with the nights drawing in, it is of thoughts of hibernation and sleep that we're drawn to and our awareness of darkness increases. It is something that unites us all is death and is unavoidable, although it is the prospect of how rather than death itself that I fear more. And yes, we must have faith in nature. It is perhaps your last words 'and there is nothing to fear but ourselves' that perhaps speaks loudest as this is something we can change.



  3. I don't, I think, fear death. Like you, and I think Leo and many others, I have a fear of what I leave behind, how I might have left loved one's unprepared. I learned yesterday that we have another grandchild on the way - in May - and my father in law is today having treatment for cancer, you know about my personal project which means that death AND life are everywhere and in a constant circle. I would say that if the subconscious is striving to be heard then let it speak - even to a piece of paper, record it; but if it only rears it's head occasionally then slap it and open a bottle of Chateaux Margaux '59 with a good strong paysanne fromage - to hell with it.
    Susan Burnstine used photography to deal with/exorcise her nightmares in a very personal way, which resonated with me very strongly - and whilst this I wouldn't want to burden this forum with personal responses to your list of concerns I would say that I am a lot closer to the end point than you!
    John - not anonymous

  4. The cycle of life is a wonderful marvel and I can appreciate this most of the time, a true believer in our being a part of, rather than owner, of nature. But it becomes a little more frightening when you think too hard about it on a personal level. It sends me dizzy trying to square the corners. Congratulations John on the prospect of another grandchild...another reason to open the fizz and enjoy today. I suspect the project you're currently working on will bring similar feelings to the fore too. I do think a more open dialogue about the whole cycle of life would be useful in our society and indeed expressing this through photography. I recall seeing Susan Burnstine's work fairly and was very taken with her work too, there is certainly scope to explore terrors this way...I find there are so many challenges I could set myself in photography, it is choosing which one and in which order. And with regards your final comment, there is far too much work to be done here for both of us to be rushing off anywhere too soon!!

  5. This time of year is always the worst for me - those dark, heavy awakenings which can lead to brooding upon the purpose of life. I guess that's why we have special festivals for meeting the dead - couched in other terms of course in this modern age. Maybe it's to do with the way our bio-rhythms co-ordinate with our planet's rhythms. I've had similar thoughts to yours throughout my adult years, certainly once my first child was born,but then after a while of allowing myself to think them my brain just shuts off and I start to come back to being in the moment when I know I'm alive right now. What I always return to eventually is that it's important to make the most of whatever time I have left because I can't change the eventual outcome. Yes - there's much work still to be done.

  6. Hi Catherine, thanks for you say it does seem to be cyclical and as there are never going to be answers you have to forget about them really and try to live in the could drive you nuts couldn't it, but I guess like fine art it is about exploring the question and not necessarily trying to solve them.