This week the Weekly Photo Challenge intrigues me. The idea of a “Three-picture Story” is fascinating.
In a nutshell, a three-picture story is a way to help you think about storytelling with images. To create a three-picture story, gather:
- An establishing shot: a broad photo of your subject.
- A relationship: two elements interacting with one another.
- A detail: a close-up of one part of your subject.
For years I’ve been a photographer. For me, each photo tells its own story. I look at my photos and I am taken back to a moment in my life; I can smell those moments and feel them, all over again. My photographs are how I see the world: the world of my children, the natural world around me, the relationships in my life, and the artistic visions I have. I focus in on my food, the patterns I see, the events I experience, the expressions I see on the faces I love or know.
For years I’ve been a writer. In a way, writing is where I spell out the things I might have photographed. I dig deeper in my writing. I want to understand things: relationships, intimacy, conflict, solitude, beauty, art, nature… With fiction, I can create those images with words. I can play out scenarios that I’ve thought about, or lived. I can find new outcomes and new directions to explore, and the only limits are my own mind. In non-fiction, or in my blog posts, it’s all about putting it down with as few filters as possible– telling my story with authenticity and honesty. I try to do that in each blog post; I try to do that each time I write as story, from my life.
This week’s photo challenge brings both of those things– photography and storytelling, together. As I went to my photo library, I knew almost instantly which story I would tell, with only three photos: the story of my mother and me. We shared such a complex life together, that really comes down to three parts: 1) My early childhood, when things felt magical and sweet. The future appeared bright and positive, in my mind. 2) The middle, after my father’s sudden death in a car accident. Our roles shifted; we co-parented, fractured and spent years trying to figure out how to just be a mother and daughter. 3) The final years, when my mother’s Huntington’s Disease consumed her, and left me caring for her. We found a deeper acceptance of one another in those final years. We worked through our battles and found peace with one another. In her final three months, I sat with her each day at Hospice, as she wasted away. Most days, I crawled into bed with her and allowed myself to be her child again. She couldn’t do much at that point, but she could hold my hand, or stroke my hair; she could hold me. Some days, I held her so she wouldn’t feel so alone– other days, so I wouldn’t feel so alone. Her hospice room became a cocoon where we could heal and say goodbye.
When she finally left me (read here), we had said everything that needed to be said. She did not want to be buried; she asked that we cremate her and spread her ashes on the water. She loved to sail, loved to be on or near the water. Eight months after her death, our family gathered on a beautiful catamaran, on the sparkling waters of the San Juan Islands, and I said goodbye to my mother. As I watched those ashes spread across the water and then sink, I felt so many years of conflict and complexity sink with them. All that was left was love. For a moment, I was spent.
When we were young:
When we were healing:
When I said goodbye.
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