What care work can be done with the camera?
Over several years, Franklyn Rodgers photographed his ageing mother Loretta, and the people important to her. These large portraits (each photograph is six feet tall) recognise the significance of close-knit relationships: mother and son, and between friends. When we exhibited them in 2018, the gallery became Loretta’s circle, and the viewer stepped inside this network of care.
Curator Mark Sealy was drawn to the series because of the visual care Franklyn showed for such deeply personal subjects. Each portrait has an exquisite grandeur, an investigation of what it means to look into the human face with trust and empathy. As they hung in Autograph’s gallery the Windrush scandal unfolded in the news, and the need to care for - and visually represent - this elder generation became urgent. It is even more necessary now.
The project was influenced by the work of Emmanuel Levinas, who claimed that our individual obligations and morality are found in the recognition of the suffering and mortality of others. Identity becomes both a departure and return to the self.
Sadly, Loretta passed away during the exhibition in 2018. She visited Autograph shortly before her death, to witness her son’s photographic tribute to a lifetime of care – of devotion – to people.
This is care work done with the camera, and a testament to the need for greater safekeeping across the human condition.
The Franklyn Rodgers: Devotion – a Portrait of Loretta exhibition was in The Guardian and there’s a wonderful review by Sarah Birch in the Hackney Citizen.
If you want to see more of Franklyn’s work, Autograph has published a photobook. We’re all working remotely and can’t ship orders while the gallery is closed due to Covid-19 - so add it to your post-lockdown reading list.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list