My Mother’s Notebooks

At the age of 87, when my mother began to need care 24 hours a day, she moved into a nursing home. The following year, my brother, sister and I had to sell my mother’s house in order to pay her nursing home fees.

I had known that my mother’s memory had been deteriorating for years. For as long as I could remember she had written lists. As her memory worsened, she would write notes to remind herself of conversations and events. I also knew that my mother had written diaries from an early age that she intended to write up for publication. 

However, none of this prepared me for the vast quantity of hand written personal notebooks and diaries stored in cardboard boxes, and bound notes and envelopes piled in the garage and secreted in cupboards in every room of the house. My mother appears to have recorded almost everything that took place in her life for over 70 years – writing up everything from everyday mundane incidences to more personal revelations about her relationships and love life. 

In sorting through my mother’s paperwork, I began to photograph her notebooks in the rooms in which I found them. 

The photographs in this series tell the story of my parent’s marriage and my mother’s attempts to come to terms with repercussions from my father’s childhood. My father was Jewish and grew up in Berlin. As a boy he witnessed and experienced first hand the Nazi regime’s treatment of Jews. In 1939 my father was evacuated on the Kindertransport and eventually arrived in Edinburgh, where my parents met. 

These photographs show, through my mother’s writings, how she came to understand that my father’s experiences in Nazi Berlin led to his mental health deteriorating, and how she struggled to keep the family together.