How does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor?
What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending‘?
Despite being the photographer Bryony Campbell is, by necessity, a part of the work; she can’t separate herself off from her subject matter. The work is intimately tied up in the relationship between her and her dying father.
Eugene Smith’s work is very different. Despite providing a glimpse into the lives of the 4000 patients in the area, the work is really all about the doctor and so there is not the same level of intimacy created as there is with a family member; the photographer is detached, not emotionally involved with the patients and that shows. Eugene Smith tells a story about a working life that often includes brushes with death and in all probability has a lot of empathy for both doctor and patients, but all the relationships are temporary. Bryony Campbell’s work is a story about a life which is ending but a relationship which endures beyond that moment; her dad will always be her dad – which I think is part of what she means by an end without end (although it’s probably a reference to the actual work too).
There are the obvious differences in terms of time – when these sets of images were shot. Details that one time might see as vulgar later on are seen as intimate and become acceptable. There is the colour and mono difference, again possibly about technical limitations of colour film at the time Eugene Smith was shooting but also the use of monochrome provides a sense of coherence to images shot in various places of various people. Campbell’s images are about intimacy and relationship and have a very narrow set of parameters in terms of people and places; colour works in the context to achieve a sense that we have been allowed to share in these very private moments.