The idea for the project came quite slowly, it drew from several sources and developed as it went along. I had wanted to do an art project on childlessness, but hadn’t really any idea of how to do it.
I went to my Aunt Deita’s funeral and was quite struck by a life size doll she had on a stand on the floor in her living room. It was dressed in pretty clothes and had lovely heart buttons. To me it was a symbol for the child she never had and was “the elephant in the room”. It was the subject none of us had really talked to her about and the subject no one really talked to me much about. Yet it is ever present in my mind. Every life event or milestone for my niece and nephews or friends’ childrens, bring home my loss. I wondered why she had it there and like to think it’s a way of reminding people, “please be sensitive to my loss, please see it is always here with me.” I took a photo of the doll, but didn’t know what I would do with it.
I then went on a portraiture course at the De La Warr pavilion with Lisa Barnard. I wasn’t too sure about going on the course, as I don’t normally like portraits, but Lisa had made it sound like it would be interesting. Half way through, we had to produce some portraits with a subject, method and style of our own choosing. I decided to try and recreate the doll picture in my parents living room as they had similar furniture. This changed when I found it impossible to find a life size doll similar to my Aunts. I then saw a shop mannequin of a child in a local shop and hired that for the weekend. By now the idea had changed to photos of myself and Barry in various locations as though she were a real child. the title “photos I’ll never take” came later. We spent the weekend at Camber sands in the dunes and playgrounds and staging a fake birthday party on the sunday with chocolate cake, (that of course had to be eaten afterwards, such a waste not to).
The difficult part was buying the clothes for her. Surprisingly its not just barbie dolls that have deformed proportions. She has legs of a two year old but the chest of a six to twelve month baby. Barry went ahead to a charity shop and warned them I would be coming and why, so we wouldn’t cause too much of a stir. We had a good laugh, but there were times when it felt strange and there were moments of sadness for me.
I presented the photos and got a fantastic reception, so decided I would have to buy her and do a year in the life for a family album. She cost £150. But I got the hire cost off the price.
The idea to include a pregnancy came after I saw a photo of me and I almost looked pregnant, (it was the clothes!) plus Barry had been joking that he wanted a boy so he could buy a scalectrix. A pregnancy and birth would fit into a year and would give me the classic shot of a mother holding a newborn baby, for the family album.