Exhibition for the Arnolfini Bristol: A Picture of Health? Women Photographers from the Hyman Collection
I didn't put myself down for sainthood (3)
C- Type colour print
91 x 61 cms (35.76 x 23.97 ins)
Rosy Martin in collaboration with Verity Welstead
Martin has expained: "Working with Verity Welstead I reconnected to complex, myriad, conflicting, ambivalent emotions to make visible what it meant and how it felt to be my Mother's carer.
I take an autobiographical, affective approach to the photographic. The mother-daughter dyad features prominently for women exploring interpersonal relationships and psychic formations. I have returned again and again to this within my practice as my investigations shifted from contestation, through empathy to reparation. I use photography to reflect upon and reconsider this all too familiar, once taken-for-granted, when faced with dementia, loss and death.
I was her only daughter, her 'greatest mistake' born just after the War, long after her two boys who were grown, already to leave home by the time I arrived. I was resistant to the dutiful daughter role, and indeed her expectations but I was the only child available when she needed support, after my father died. Ambivalence vied with acceptance and love. Slowly but inevitably the daughter became the vulnerable widowed mother's carer.
It was the multi-infarct dementia, slowly but inexorably doing its damage that made the daughter/carer role so very hard. I always tried to support her in her independence, careful not to take her power away, yet I also had to protect her from her confusions. I learnt degrees of patience I did not think I was capable of. Yet said to one of her drop-in carers 'I did not put myself down for sainthood' as my Mother's dementia days stretched to months then years. This expressed the sense of my commitment to a belief that I had to be there for her, ease her suffering, interpret and intercede in the world for her, make everything better, whilst knowing I would finally fail. I cannot abandon her, whilst she must abandon me.
This is the carer's role: unsung, uncelebrated, and unacknowledged. Exhaustion intercedes until all personal, physical and emotional resources seem used up. Then even more is needed. Being on constant 'red alert' for a new emergency, an everyday crisis is wearing. At times so weary, as if a vampiric despot was consuming my very life-blood. Sometimes enraged by the impossibilities of communication and endless repetitions that could never be satisfactorily answered. Leave, let go. The psychosis of dementia required a 'being with', acceptance and holding, to learn another kind of loving."
Rosy Martin 2018