WTJ pointed me toward the beautiful and moving site Days With My Father produced by Phillip Toledano. He documented, with touching pictures and words, the last years of his father’s life. This past week his father Edward passed away at the age of 99.
A lot of people have documented their families, even in end times, and I think it is hard to get that balance of producing something that matters to the family and photographer as well as has worth to the outside world. Some photographers that come to mind are Eugene Richards, who photographed his parents (included in the book The Fat Baby) and his first wife’s passing (in Exploding into Life), Sally Mann on another plane, and Larry Towell’s book The World from My Front Porch documenting his family’s life on their farm in Canada.
These are just projects that have stuck in my mind, I know I’ve seen many others. Some of which are great, others that should just be kept in family photo albums. The ones I linked to are beautiful and important in their own right, but Toledano’s work has jumped out on a different level for me. What about for you all? Are there other projects you have seen, in this vein, that have affected you?
It is comforting to hear that the Toledanos reached this end on their terms: “I feel lucky to have had these last three years. To have left nothing unsaid.” That’s tremendous. I lost my father at the age of 10 to cancer, and we did have a time to say goodbye. I wish we could have known enough about that moment to say more, to know more, about what he meant to me and how he would influence my life. Not being able to share that, and not being able to capture those feelings in pictures – one of my most important ways of understanding the world – is a regret that I can do nothing about. It wasn’t time yet. I don’t think I even took a picture of my dad. Maybe that is why this project hits me so hard; it is a project I wish I could have done in a very real way. So thank you to Phillip for taking these pictures, recording these words and then sharing it so eloquently on this website. It means a lot.