This is a portrait of my grandfather.
Or: This is the framing I had in mind when I thought about a portrait of my grandfather that I was eager to take. Someday.
Or: This is a story about missed opportunities.
My grandfather was a very calm and humble person. Devoted and at ease with himself. Someone who didn’t like to be photographed but preferred to stay in the background or even better behind the camera. I grew up in a house next to my grandparents’ house. He was always around when I was a child and he taught me a lot without ever teaching me. His workshop was the place where he could be on his own, where he would chop wood, repair things or take notes about the rainfall. No other place in the world was more genuinely his - and only his. When I travelled to my home village for Christmas in 2010, I brought my Hasselblad camera and I was determined to take his photo on his chair in his workshop during these uneventful days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. A photo that I had in mind for several months (or even years?), but never found the opportunity to take it. I knew he would agree even though he didn’t like to be portrayed - but just because I liked him and he liked me. While shoveling snow on the morning of Christmas Eve 2010, my grandfather had an apoplectic stroke, was taken to the hospital and for a few days we were sure he was about to die. Although he returned to his house a few weeks later, the stroke had caused extensive damages to his brain and his motor function and he never went back to his workshop. My grandfather died in his house more than six years later, a few days after he had seen the first picture of my first child. Two generations that didn’t have the chance to meet. I’m sure they would have liked each other.
This series of photos is a search for traces, a collection of fragmented memories, a reflection on grief and the transient nature of our existence.
The photo of my grandfather‘s chair in his workshop was taken on the day of his funeral. Even after all these years, I could feel his presence in this moment in this place. This is the photo I never took. Yet to me, it is a portrait of my grandfather.