Philosophy & Reflections Photos & Projects

Finding Subjects in Familiar Sights – by Chris Illing

February 4, 2020

It’s December the 23. 2018. Midnight. I’m standing in the bathroom of my parents house brushing my teeth. It felt like nothing had changed since my childhood. Everything as usual. I turn away from the sink to the bathtub. The same boiler, the same flagging, the same shower head. Since I can remember.

But suddenly something appears to be different. All at once, I perceive this situation differently. I turn around again. The green chair in the corner. Since always in the same place. Nothing extraordinary. But also here: All at once, this object so familiar with me appears interesting. What triggered this change in me?

I get my Mamiya 6, loaded with an expired Portra 400. Not the best film for interior shots in dim lighting conditions. Yet through the central shutter in the lens and the missing mirror of the rangefinder I manage to handhold 1/8s. What will the photos show me when they are developed?

In the next days I roam our house and the surrounding area. Searching unconsciously.
I’m successful: My parent’s bedroom. Here too – this standstill. The pictures on the wall, my mother’s alarm clock. Everything just as I saw it as a child.

My search continues. My father’s office. Entering the room is like a journey through time. The curtains, the beautiful mess, the electric typewriter that my father still uses from time to time. I notice that the desk has never been free. Since i can remember.

I find these places around our house, too. Places that remind me on my childhood. Because they have often changed little or not at all. Because they spark this feeling of familiarity in me.

The winter forest in which we played. The flood in front of our house or the tree into which we nailed our first tree house. Through photography I try to make this feeling tangible.

The finished images reflect these moments very well. The calm, the banal – but also: intimacy. What is left from growing up in your parents’ house? It seems to me that my parents’ house and the surroundings act as a mirror for myself, as a symbol for everything that has made us what we are now. Like a portal to my own adolescence.

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Rock
    February 4, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for sharing Chris.Interesting post.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 4, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks man!

  • Reply
    bwf
    February 4, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Great article!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 4, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Gil Aegerter
    February 4, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    Lovely essay. So important to be open to seeing the familiar with fresh eyes. Particularly like the image of your parents’ bedroom.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 4, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks very much! That ones also my favourite 😉

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    February 4, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    A fine article, Chris. Your kind of seeing and thinking stimulates my creative senses. We spend perhaps 95% of our lives in the same spaces, walking the same paths, seeing the same landscapes, the same interiors – so accepting the challenge to view them afresh is appreciated.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 4, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks a lot for your words and that it triggers something in you! You made a good point there.

  • Reply
    Robert Bauder
    February 4, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Bang! I like this photo-essay SO much that I am sad that I didn’t make one when my parents were alive. Congrats on such a successful use of expired color film AND hand-held slow shutter! This is very beautiful.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 5, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Wow! Thank you very much! This is touching me. And also I’m astounded myself by getting this slow shutter right 😀

  • Reply
    Joe Van Cleave
    February 5, 2020 at 2:26 am

    I’ve been similarly inspired by domestic settings, but here you’ve done great with capturing the melancholy of memories revisited. Well done.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 5, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Thanks for your kind words! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ronald Vonk
    February 5, 2020 at 9:30 am

    I rarely leave a reply even though I visit every day, but I just had too. I love your images. They turned out great and just ooze with all sorts of moodyness. They trigger memories for me too, but also remind me of reading Stephen King novels. Good work. Very inspiring!
    Keep it up!
    Ronald

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 5, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Puh! Thanks man! I don’t even know what to say. Other than I’m really happy that i could spark this feeling in you!
      Thanks for your kind words! 🙂

  • Reply
    Huss
    February 5, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    I really like the interior shots, with their moodiness and melancholy. Even though they are created from life, it seems there is none there. Like memories.
    Far out man.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 6, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it! Love the words you find for the images and how it makes you feel 🙂

  • Reply
    Neil
    February 6, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Great article – thought provoking.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks man! 🙂

  • Reply
    Eugen Mezei
    February 6, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    A subject has to tell something. If you need to explain, it is not in the photo.
    These pictues may wake memories in you, but for the bystander they tell no story.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 6, 2020 at 1:48 pm

      Sorry but this is bullshit! Since when did image have to work without text?
      This pretentious view of photography is tiresome and not welcome here!

  • Reply
    Ian R
    February 9, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Nice article and food for thought. Next time I visit Dad (we lost Mum in 2018) I’ll have some additional photos to shoot. Photos and memories the 2 are inextricable.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 10, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks man! Sorry for your loss. You’re so right. 🙂

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