Lesley McIntyre | The TIme Of Her Life
THE TIME OF HER LIFE
31 AUGUST – 29 SEPTEMBER 2007
“Within its modesty and small compass it has unbearable weight and yet the lightest of touches.”
David Goldblatt, photographer
When photographer Lesley McIntyre’s daughter Molly was born in 1984, it was revealed she was suffering from a muscular abnormality and the doctors thought it was highly unlikely she would survive more than a few weeks or months, most likely never leaving the hospital. In spite of this, McIntyre did take her home and Molly lived until her fourteenth birthday. However, in all of this time, her condition was never properly diagnosed.
Before the birth, McIntyre assumed she’d be able to combine her career as a photographer with being a parent. She did achieve this, but not in the manner she anticipated. Grounded in domestic life and unable to pursue the commissions she might have done had her child been more robust, McIntyre began recording the details of the day to day and found observing childhood fascinating. The first pictures were taken shortly after Molly’s birth and the last a few days before she died at home in South London. Because of the precarious nature of Molly’s life, the photographs have an extraordinary poignancy.
Molly’s is a story that crosses all barriers of race, class and gender. Any family, at any time or anywhere in the world can find themselves confronted by the reality of disability. Having spent years fighting so that her child would not be socially and educationally marginalized by her physical disability, McIntyre is fully aware of how resistant many people are to engaging with such subject matter. This is not confined to disability alone – but to death, and in particular child death.
This series of black and white photographs reveal a life full of vitality and the ordinariness of growing up, despite the challenges both Molly and McIntyre faced on a daily basis. An extremely bright and well loved child, mature beyond her young years, McIntyre hopes that Molly’s legacy is that she gave so many people the capacity to engage with life and to feel.
“Between birth and death you have living and dying. That’s about it. It sounds so simple but we live in dreadful denial about the dying. I would love to demystify it a little without terrifying people. The end of a great life should be as celebratory as the beginning. Both stages are inevitably linked. It is how a human being engages with the middle bits that reflects who they really are – the journey they have travelled in their time – everything they have learned or not.”
The Time Of Her Life, published in hard back by Jonathan Cape and available throughout the exhibition, was Highly Commended by the John Kobal Book Award.