The Story Behind the Portrait
The portrait of my mother and brother is part of an ongoing documentary entitled Ground Control to Mother Hen that documents my family since my mother was diagnosed with secondary brain cancer in 2016. Since her diagnosis the cancer has spread to her spine and is now inoperable.
I have always been drawn to things that most normal people would not want to document and that I do not really understand and so for me photography is a way to explore that. When this series began I did not have a clear view in mind of what I wanted to communicate or whose perspective the images would be from; I was simply taking pictures to try and understand what was going on around me. The project is ultimately driven by the desire to record my deeply personal struggle during this transition in my life and the images are defined above all else by a range of emotional forces that we as a family are experiencing. Individually, the images are straightforward, but together they result in an overwhelming sense of sadness and despair.
This particular image of my mother and brother holds a great deal of emotion; my brother staring off into the distance whilst my mother is holding him as if she never wants to let go.
My brother lives in Devon with his wife and two daughters, due to the decline in mum’s health and the severe pain that she is now experiencing she has not been able to cope with the journey to Devon. My brother visits as often as he can and this image was taken before mum’s pain got severe and as a family we travelled down to Devon for the day.
At the time when this image was taken my brother was very much in denial about mum’s condition and the physical distance fundamentally becomes the emotional distance that we see in this image.
One of my mum’s aspirations has always been to become a grandmother and at present because of her illness she feels like she is missing out on seeing her grandchildren grow up as she is not as involved as she would like to be and is no longer able to even pick up her granddaughters due to the pain.
When we received the recent results of her CT scan and were sat in the consultation room, we were all in total shock and mum did not say much; one thing that she did express was how she could not understand why this was happening to her and how unfair it is that she will not witness me getting married or be around when I have children. This is something that I wish I could give her and realise that I cannot; I find myself feeling tremendously upset but also quite angry when I contemplate the future. I cannot be angry that mum is dying because we all have to die at some point, I am however angry at cancer; how it is stealing everything from us and causing her so much pain. My wedding day and the birth of my children will be both the happiest and heart-rending of times and I wish that I had the opportunity that my brother has been given.
My hope is that the series will help raise awareness and offer something to others dealing with this on some level. There is a correlation between raising awareness and exploring a family’s pain and suffering that so many can relate to. We all react to situations in different ways, art in particular has always had the ability to resonate with people; the issues at the heart of my project are universal and the feedback that I have got has proved that photography and personal, intimate work in particular will make people confront issues such as love, loss, relationships, suffering, illness and death.
Lauren Forster is a portrait and documentary photographer; her work mainly addresses sociological issues and explores the human condition. Since 2008 she has been a lecturer in Lens Based Media at The Arts University Bournemouth where she is currently completing her MA in Commercial Photography.
Lauren’s work has been displayed internationally as part of The New York Photography Festival and exhibited nationally as part of the Beyond the Lens Festival: Photoblock, The Guardian & Observer Archive and Visitor Centre, AOP Gallery and at The Candit Arts Trust Gallery.
Work from her ongoing documentary Ground Control to Mother Hen has been selected as part of the Family Photography Now Instagram project led by the Photographers Gallery, she was selected as an AOP finalist in 2017 and has been selected as finalist again in 2018. Her work has recently been selected as part of the Portrait of Britain 2018 and The Royal Photographic Society’s International Photography Exhibition 161 2018.