Sweeting graduated in 2001 with a degree in Photography in the Arts from
Swansea Institute. She has since exhibited work in Intervention, Birmingham,
The Folly Gallery, Lancaster, Home Grown at Rhubarb Rhubarb in Birmingham,
the Tricycle Gallery in London and currently has work in the show Treat
Yourself at the Science Museum in London. She was selected and is currently working on an Emerging Photographer Commission, based in Sunderland, in association with Northern Arts and The University of Sunderland. She works exclusively in
colour, using medium and large format cameras and hand printing all her own
work. Within her most recent photographs she explores the symbiotic
relationship between people and spaces; how the identity of an environment develops in relation to the people or persons that occupy it, be it personal, professional or transitory. Helen can be contacted by email at HelSweething@aol.com
Home Hereafter by Helen Sweeting
Within my work I am interested in the identity that an environment develops
in relation to the people, or persons that occupy it.
In September of the year 2000 my Grandmother Rene died. She was 90 years old and had lived on the same road in Handsworth, Birmingham, all of her life, moving ten houses away from her parents upon her marriage to my Grandfather, Jack, 60 years ago.
Following her death I started photographing her home, a space that evokes many personal memories for my family and myself. I wanted initially, to capture her essence within these walls - her private space, creating one final portrait of her, a portrait-in-absentia. I photographed her home before the possessions, the remnants of her existence, were removed.
When my family sold the house I befriended the new owners, a Muslim family that knew my Grandmother. On subsequent returns to the house I have interpreted its reduction to an empty shell, stripped to its brickwork in preparation for its rejuvenation. New rooms and corridors have since been created and decorated and with the transformation recently completed, earlier this year, the family have now moved in.
I am interested in the metamorphosis and regeneration of this house, its
changing identity, as a new family creates their own home, a new presence and influence within these walls.
This first image is called "Mirror and Lounge". My gran, my mother and I would sometimes stand in a line comparing our heights in the mirror above the fireplace. By my teens when we stood there my gran was the shortest and I was the tallest with mum in the middle. In the opposite direction our mouths went from being slightly curved down at the corners to a little bit more down turned in my mother to very much so in my grandmother, which always made us laugh.
When my brother and I were little we discovered loose tiles around the bottom edge of the fireplace and decided to hide a piece of paper with our names on underneath it, after we told our cousins and they did the same. Every so often over the years we would lift the tile to check they were still there. One day I went to check for our little memento and discovered that she had recently decided to fix the tiles and thrown the scraps of paper away.
Donor Ref: '
Helen Sweeting/ Mirror and Lounge
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