I had tried, quite a few times to the point of frustration, to get a decent photo of my Dad. As soon as I would raise the camera to my eye, he would immediately change to this weird, awkward human who didn’t know what to do in such a situation which I just found bizarre. At the time, it didn’t bother me too much as he was in reasonably good health, despite being diagnosed with COPD around ten years previously. Stopping smoking was the best thing he ever did but it didn’t make him any less awkward in front of the camera.
The best I could manage where candid moments from afar, not entirely what I wanted but making the most of a bad situation! Like this image of him in Rain City Tattoo in Manchester, chatting to Baker about getting his first tattoo in many years…
It was ok though, I had plenty time and one day, I would sit down with him and be patient and talk him through some ‘proper’ portraits. They would be beautiful (I would tell myself, unconvincingly), and timeless and would be great memories, but we always ended up arguing about something and I never managed to get around to it. but it was ok, I had time.
I stopped by to visit the parents one day, late summer 2018 and Dad was sat in the sunshine with his book, feet up, all content and relaxed. I had the camera on me as I most always do so I took just two frames. I think he was conscious of what I was doing, but he didn’t move, or look up. He let me have this moment. It still wasn’t what I wanted, but it would have to do for now. But it was ok, I had plenty time.
One of the things we had begun to argue about in the few months either side of this photo, was how much weight he had started to lose. He assured me he was fine and he knew what it was. He had been diagnosed with Diverticulitis a couple of years previously apparently, although I wasn’t convinced. Eventually, in November, he gave in to my incessant pestering and went again to the Doctors.
Aside from a Polaroid at Christmas of the same year, unbeknown to me at the time, these last few images, shot in black and white (something I rarely do) and home developed, would be the last images I would ever make of my Dad
They said it was treatable and they had caught it in good time. He looked well and positive during the treatment which lasted until around my birthday in mid February. After that, the decline from the Cancer was rapid. By mid April, he was back in hospital where we found out it had spread to his spine, lungs and a spot on his liver. He passed away in Wigan Hospice on a beautifully sunny day, Easter Sunday, April 21st 2019.
It has been just over two months now and I can finally manage to go through the limited images that I made of him in the last few years and, even though they don’t follow the ideal scenario that I wanted, they serve as a beautiful reminder that I was fortunate enough to take just a few snaps, no matter how unflattering or candid they were and hopefully they will encourage you, as photographers to take more pictures or the people you love, the people you are closest to, your friends and family. I wish I had taken more over the year but I didn’t, because it was ok, I had plenty time.
Except I didn't.
26th July 1946 - April 21st 2019