The Things She Left Behind

It was the summer of 1995 when my first wife suddenly died. Our adopted son was only 2-1/2 years old. While we eventually were able to achieve some sense of normalcy in our lives after years of grief and loss, it was never easy for him to deal with the feeling that, to use his own words, that he “was robbed.” Our son, now a young adult, remembers little about the person who he calls his “old mom.”

 Several months after her death, I gathered together many of her favorite things and put them in an old storage chest donated by close friends. These included diaries, sketchbooks, favorite jewelry, photographs, things she sewed and knitted – even the very possessions she carried with her the day she died – so he could have something that truly belonged to her, even as he struggled to remember this now mysterious person who had loved him so dearly.

 But how does one visually depict those fragments of memory that remain when someone so young loses a parent and all that’s left are her treasured possessions. I chose to combine the wet plate collodion process with alternative print processes to show what it might be like to see through the eyes of a child still struggling to recall a significant part of his past that’s been clouded forever by the relentlessness of time.