“Grounded” is my Bachelor of Fine Arts thesis photo series and exhibition that portrays my journey to discover, grapple with, and understand my relationship with my late paternal grandfather. Starting with only archival images and my grandfather’s unpublished manuscript, I set off to the city of London, Ontario, where my grandfather started his professional career as a charter pilot, in search of a sense of knowing a person I am ancestrally tied to but have no reference of. The series uses archival family images and text from my grandfather’s manuscript as the historical references for my contemporary images of London, Ontario taken between September to December 2020.
Grounded is presented in three stages that reflect my personal trajectory while working on the project: discovery, reflection, and identity. The images depict deterioration and physical barriers, two key themes that reference the time that has passed since my grandfather lived in London as well as the roadblocks that I have faced during my personal journey of learning about my family history.
My work is inspired by the constructed nature of family histories and attempts to subvert this idea by exhibiting framed images taken by myself that reference scars and cracks with the archival images are large vinyl backdrops. A quotation that influenced this project is that of Roland Barthes, who said “pictures of family and friends are visible reminders of former appearances, inviting us to reflect on ‘what has been’” (Barthes, 1981). Grounded intentionally leans into the uncomfortable aspects of my family history that have been left out of my family narratives, a sudden family death and a relative missing from my life, depicting these feelings through visual scars and physical barriers. I was inspired by Suzy Lake’s “Performing an Archive” (2014/16) and Zinnia Naqvi’s “Dear Nani” (2017-ongoing), two projects which examine the artist’s relationship to a grandparent and present them in ways that examine the complexity of personal histories.