Part 2, Project 1 – Telling a Story

Exercise – How does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor? And what do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?

 

Bryony Campbell’s, The Dad Project is a story of personal and universal struggle. It’s the story of an MA photographic student whose stance as to self exploration through turning the camera on herself has always been reluctant. It’s the story of an optimistic and much valued father who’s optimism, at times, gets in the way of grappling with the difficult – and can be, as Bryony Campbell states, perhaps denial at certain times, [The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf]. It’s a story of struggling as an adult family through major illness and the inevitable mortality that has been medically declared as the certain prognosis, that can show all of us the intertwining of several feelings, thoughts and emotions that arise just as they may do, or might have already done for us in terms of struggles with mortality. It’s a story of loss whilst allowing for that loss to be recorded, albeit with a certain amount of emotional struggle and to find meaning in the struggle – not only in terms of recording the final months of her father’s life but in terms of recording the moments of feeling that show what the final months are and what they mean and feel to those who are within them.

W Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor, is a humanist story of the possibility of everyday heroism in small acts of care within a community that contribute to more than the sum of their parts over a patient’s lifetime and a doctor’s career. It’s a story that is subject focused yet not as personal as the Dad Project. It is through the main subject, the country doctor that we see the realities of his job, the close feel of the photography of the home visits, where the community doctor attends to what is potentially a wide variety of ailments; minor to serious.

The similarities of the projects are that they show the difficulties of bearing witness to human frailty – as the relative of a dying man or framing a practitioner to a sometimes poorly register of patients. Sickness is a subject far from pretty and yet to document the truth of it framing and caring as to what is shown of the subjects allows there to be a form of beauty. It is the love of Bryony Campbell for her father and the careful framing of the country doctor administering to his patients by Eugene Smith that allow us to view the level of delicate human intimacy that is possible in circumstances that require some maturity and dignity to be brought to the fore.

Campbell’s statement that the Dad Project is “an ending without an ending” may seem an unusual statement for a grieving daughter to have made and yet the grieving daughter has, unusually, documented her father’s final months. My opinion though is, that Campbell isn’t referring merely to having any permanent document to mark her father’s life but that she faced his reality through her project in a different form than she might have if she’d faced his illness without a ‘form’ through which to look. She looked at the man and his defences as she looked at herself and her reluctance. It was far from narcissistic to face close examination of truth in which there can be pain and it meant, I’m fairly certain that there was another form of comprehension of her father that Bryony Campbell reached – and its probably this level of comprehension that has no ending to which her statement refers.

References

Campbell, B, [http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf – last accessed 30/04/02017]

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