2a W. Eugene Smith & Bryony Campbell

• How does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor?
• What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?
Make some notes in your learning log.

C&N p.51

The essential and glaring difference between the two projects is that while Smith, as the photographer, was anonymous (‘always … in the shadows’, said Dr. Ceriani, the subject), Campbell’s project was, in comparison, performative, with her father in the lead role and the photographer as ‘supporting actress’ often appearing in the images. Smith was an outsider, doing a job (however much he might have cared about his subjects, in this and other projects). Campbell, by contrast, was (to some extent) using the project as a means of confronting and dealing with her father’s death and it allowed them to share the experience and collaborate on an expression of that experience: it might also have provided a welcome distraction for them both at times. (In addition, of course, Campbell had an MA to complete and her father’s prolonged condition probably meant that she could not have been expected to work on anything else.)

As regards ‘an ending without an ending’, Campbell’s project allowed her to spend a lot more time with her father than would otherwise have been the case and the output provided a substantial and lasting memento. Campbell’s comment about spreading the grief concludes, ‘ it has become a continuous presence, but never a heavy one’ [1, p.11].

The matter of intrusion and whether it is better (or less worse) done by a stranger (or outsider) or a participant of some kind (and, indeed whether it should be done at all) applies to both these projects and to many others where the lives of private citizens are brought to the attention of the general public. As has been noted in Part 1, , in the last decade, the popularity of reality TV and the widespread use of social media has changed attitudes in some areas of society to the reporting of personal stories.
Intrusion is discussed at length in Bear and Palmer Albers’ Before-and-After Photography [2], in an interview of Frank Gohlke by Rebecca Senf, dealing with his photographing his town of birth (Wichita Falls, Texas) after it had been damaged by a tornado. He describes his uneasiness in depicting the bleak circumstances of the families he grew up around, but made the story a positive one by returning a year later to show how the community had repaired itself (he notes the normal news cycle of showing an undamaged before and a devastated after, which he has reversed to show a positive outcome) [2, pp. 79-82]. Gohlke felt that his personal connection allowed him to depict these events and also prompted him to ‘report’ it as a good news event rather than a disaster.
And this also relates back to Abigail Solomon-Godeau essay on the differences of approach between insiders and outsiders studies in Part 1.

1. Campbell, B. (2011) The Dad Project [online]. brionycampbell.com. Available from http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf [Accessed 28 January 2020].

2. Bear, J. & Palmer Albers, K. (eds.) (2017) Before-and-After Photography, histories and contexts. London: Bloomsbury.