Well-known photographer Celine Marchbank came into Uni today to give a tutorial in the afternoon to those interested followed by a talk on her own work in the evening.

I joined the tutorial as my current project is strongly based on feminism and I thought it would be important to get a female photographers input. I also really admire Celine Marchbank’s style of photography and how she works with light. It wasn’t only interesting to hear Marchbank’s thoughts on my work but also the 3rd years opinions. Marchbank complimented me on my portraiture and just insisted I take more to show a wide range which would give a stronger message in my project. Both Marchbank and 3rd years suggested various photographers that would be of interest for my research in relevance to my project. Marchbank suggested that I pay a visit to the 209 MPs exhibition in London over Christmas which I am keen to attend as it has great relevance to my feminism project and out of my own interest.

Later in the evening Celine Marchbank presented her work to us.

Marchbank told us that it was when she was studying at LCC for her MA that her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and a brain tumor which is if you don’t know stage 4 is the worst stage you can be. She naturally started to photograph this journey with her mother as a mother & daughter project.

The style of the photography in this project shifted when they heard further bad news which was that her condition was terminal. This is when Marchbank didn’t know how to approach the project without being insensitive to her mother.

Instead of directly photographing her mothers suffering she wanted to document new habits and changes in the environment that come with someone being terminally ill.

 All she felt like eating today.

You start to develop a different attitude to life once your terminally ill, there are no longer any rules on what to eat and when, you don’t have to follow any etiquette. Her mother drank half cups of tea for the sake of it, ate random foods as you would eat whatever you fancied whenever you wanted, in her mothers case it was foods such as figs and melon. Its not like you don’t care anymore but its just no longer a massive priority in your life when you have terminal cancer.

I suppose when you want to document this type of journey without directing showing the person who is experiencing the suffering you spend a lot of time documenting said persons bedroom or hospital or of wherever they choose to rest. Marchbank captured this negative environment so beautifully filled with emotion, showing the viewer how it would feel very thoughtfully. Without disturbing the viewer but still getting the emotional impact. A running theme of tulips comes out throughout the book which makes sense as flowers are often associated with emotion whether its for good or bad events in peoples lives. It was consistently tulips as they were her mothers favourite and the tulips progress in the journey along side her mother – the tulips are almost a representation of her mother. With her mother resting a lot you can tell Marchbank observes the space around her a lot probably noticing more about the space that she would have previously. When you’re so used to an environment you dismiss the small quirks.

As Marchbank cooked her mother would commentate what she’s doing which Marchbank assumed was subconsciously teaching her so she could perfect after her death, her mother took pride in her recipes as she was chef.

 30th September. One year since Mum was diagnosed. Her condition has deteriorated and she’s been admitted to the Marie Curie hospice for two week’s respite care. I worry looking at her empty bed, will she ever come home?


 7th October. Last night we were told Mum only has a week to live. Today I looked at the tomatoes we planted together and wondered will she ever see them ripen?

Towards the end of Marchbank’s mother’s journey she captured very simple pictures with very big impacts such as her mothers empty bed when she doesn’t know for certain if she’ll be able to return to after the hospital that day and will her mother ever see the tomatoes on the window sill ripen. These images represent such strong emotion without being obvious.

 9th October 6am. My Mum died last night. Looking out of her bedroom window, I realise this is the start of the first day of my life without her.

After looking through the images in the book you can approach these two images towards the end and know what they suggest without needing an explanation which Marchbank has carefully sequenced.

I think Celine Marchbank has captured/documented this journey very delicately full of emotion without being obvious in her mothers suffering which subconciously connects the viewer to her emotions in the moments of taking each individual photograph. For me the photographs fill me with compassion and an understanding of Celine Marchbank and her experience which most people who have met Marchbank or read her book would agree with me on. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

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