Roads to nowhere – through the late nineties into the 21st century the ‘holiday home’ market in Cyprus was booming! Whole estates planned, roads and infrastructure installed, ready for the overseas buyers wanting their slice of sun away from home.
Then the 2008 global financial crisis was followed by the collapse of the Greek economy and vast swaths of building projects were cancelled.
These ‘roads to nowhere’ still exist, complete with lighting and access drop curbs.
Spending time away with the family this week with a return to Cyprus. Never too far from the camera though and always wanting to capture what I see around me.
During today’s trip to Polis Beach I immediately clocked the remnants of a concrete machine gun bunker listing into the sea. More likely a left over of the Second World War rather than of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
My obsession with this dark corner of Cypriot history keeps growing and I have a tremendous urge to visit and explore the Northern ‘occupied territory’. High on my list to visit is the city of Nicosia. As the last city on earth to have a wall and duel occupancy, it has an allure to me to document the aftermath of a war which is still felt nearly five decades later.
In recent weeks I was asked to help prepare a showreel for a family members funeral. Although I would have met him sometime ago as a child I don’t actively remember meeting him, although have some memories of meeting his wife.
The lady was my great aunty Barbara and the deceased family member in turn my great uncle. Barbara is one of my fathers mothers 8 siblings with 8 girls and the one boy. Unfortunately only three are still alive.
The importance of this post is in the images. I recognise some faces but not many. It brings us to reflect upon the fact that once we have left this world, all that really survives us are the photographs which map out our lives. Mostly of happy memories of family gatherings or events. Even once those who are living now are gone, those images if still around, will be all that stands to remember them by. These people lived.
Dotted across the country of Greek Cyprus there are roadside shrines dedicated to the dead. Taking the form of Greek Orthodox churches they are visited every evening for candle lighting and memorial to the persons, often pictured.
In British culture we seem very averse to showing emotion or embracing and remembering that part of our life – death.
On this topic, one of my university lecturers spoke of a time she was asked to photograph a Sikh funeral. Despite her reluctance and the families persistence she eventually did. The purpose was not to document a families pain but to celebrate the life of the departed.
I feel British funerals, whether they’re agnostic or Christian, are not yet at the point of being open to the presence of a camera at a funeral.
Today we say farewell and lay to rest Joan Stevens. Joan, being my wife’s nan who practically raised her, was also my children’s last surviving great grandparent. Being something of a hobbyist florist, my mother-in-law wanted to prepare the flowers. This became a family occasion and a chance to start celebrating the life we will gather to remember later today.
As part of an on going exploration of the relation between Life, Death and Photography, Andrew photographed the partially cleared home of his late grandparents.
The exploration, in this case, sought to document areas that trigger personal memories. From the living room where the whole family would cram in to for Christmas present opening to the chair the cousins would fight over.
Further to these personal memories come elements which all of us can connect with on a level. The difference between a worn carpet compared to where the bed once stood. The decay as part of a house which was a struggle to keep. The garden which was once a center of great pride, sitting unloved and rotting.
This evening I had an interesting phone call from a former member of 1189 Portsmouth Squadron ATC who had found one of my projects on my website while researching. Having been a member of the squadron all the way back in the 50’s he was seeking to show his grandchildren some of his past.
Photography has a responsibility to trigger nostalgia and to evidence the past. As photographers we are professional observers who’s job it is to document the world around us.