Shutter Hub member Becky Mursell is a portrait and documentary photographer based in London. She has studied photography at Speos, London and previously worked in the non-profit sector for eight years. In her personal work, she uses photography to explore themes of mental wellbeing and family and is increasingly looking to incorporate participatory practices within her work.
How do you perceive those who are closest to you?
This is a question I asked myself after sitting in a cafe with my Grandma, Stella, and her close friend whilst listening to their laughter and stories of time well spent together. It was a moment when I realised I knew relatively little about her life outside of her role as a Grandmother to me.
By asking this question, soon a multitude of unanswered questions arose. Where did she grow up? What were the members of her immediate family like? What was her life like at my age? How did she meet my Grandad? What did it feel like to get re-married at 80? What is her life like now?
Choosing to focus on a subject so close to home I found my camera became a powerful tool. It prompted me to ask questions and initiate conversations not previously held between us. It also served as a reminder to stay present and observe the subtle changes that come with each visit.
Initially, my image making was inspired by the differences between our ‘day to day’ lives.
How lunchtimes of ham, bread and cheese were very familiar to my childhood yet quite different to what I eat now. How I only use a map to navigate in my car if my phone ran out of battery, whilst our age greatly influences what we wear.
Others were inspired by memories we had shared together growing up; memories of summers well spent playing down on the Somerset coastline.
I also discovered key figures in her family history from leafing through family albums and learning how there is still a physical presence of some of them in her life today. Objects, like a set of wicker baskets she uses to shop with, took on a new significance when I learnt it was her Uncle Oliver, who had been blind, had made them.
It has been rewarding to notice the change in how I have photographed her. Despite being a close family I felt there was an initial distance to some of my earlier photographs. However, through spending more time down with her, new dimensions and rituals have been added to our relationship (a highlight being a small G&T each evening!) I hope that as much as I have learnt things about her life from these visits, she has been able to understand and share moments of mine.
I will always be grateful to my camera for acting as a catalyst to spend more time with my Grandma and its function as a tool to capture these moments. Producing this work has taught me a lot and to date, it is the work I am most proud of.
Now that covid restrictions have lifted considerably, I am looking forward to spending more time back down in Somerset and hope in the near future to be able to exhibit the work.
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