I was told once by my grandmother, Susie North, “When we lose a grandparent, it is like a library has burned to the ground.” I lost my grandmother on January 15, 2007 and it goes without saying that at present with the Corona Virus pandemic it proves how fragile life is for us all.
This projects intent is to set at the feet of Irene Shed-Moore my wife Tonja North’s grandmother who is respectfully and affectionally known as “Big Momma” and create a documentary photography series that was natural, that captured the essence of Big Momma’s personality and the intricate details of her mannerisms. I started this series in early December 2019 with a conversation I had with Big Momma after she had a life-threatening scare in November 2019 with some heart complications. It was not long after I lost another important person in my life to Alzheimer’s.
Why do we wait until it’s too late, or almost too late to capture the lives of those most important to us?
As I processed this question I thought if I had a chance to have just one conversation with him before he passed what would I say or do? That answer was to sit down with my camera and create a documentary photography series of that conversation to capture the essence of that person who imparted so much wisdom and love on so many. I realized that seniors have a lifetime of experience to share. Big Momma was born March 15, 1931 and her life experience comprises of surviving The Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights Movement, Roe vs. Wade, Vietnam and The Great Recession just to name a few major events in her lifetime.
Big Momma is the matriarch of a huge family by last count on her 89th birthday in March 2020 was 10 children, 31 grandchildren, 66 great grandchildren, 46 great-great grandchildren over 150 people. Each of which she has sacrificed to a level only legend are made of to create the opportunities they now enjoy.
She has planted seeds that was based on God, Family & Work all fed by education as an intricate ingredient too is growth and nurturing.
Accompanied with some of the images are essays to help describe her value and meaning as a vessel that has helped navigate the course of an entire family’s journey.
Within the writings are conversations with Big Momma that allowed her tell her story in her own words plotting along life’s map as she navigates her life journey allowing the images to translate her emotions of this intimate story telling in a visual aesthetic that compliments her emotions along the journey.
By using photographic stills in a Black and White contrasted aesthetic I intend to express the timeliness of a moment that will be passed down to generations far beyond “Big Momma’s” physical presence on earth. To create a legacy piece of art the connects to the emotions of a life well lived.
She is the seed that has produced so many productive offspring.
This is, The Seed: Story of an African American Matriarch