University of Bedfordshire 2015

Parental Concerns

Friday 3rd July 2015 (11am-6pm)

This study day organised by the Family Ties Network and hosted by University of Bedfordshire examined how three practitioners have explored the stories of or collaborated with their parents, leading to the production of profound photographic, video or documentary film works. Colin Gray, Jill Daniels and David Jackson discussed their creative process and resulting artifacts, in relation to ethical issues and familial memory in this practice based research event. The Q&A sessions were faciliated by FTN co-ordinators Rosy Martin, Sally Waterman and Lizzie Thynne.



Colin Gray

Colin Gray began to take photographs of his parents in the 1960s when he was five years old. At family occasions, holidays and celebrations Gray would be allowed one shot from the single roll of film in his Dad’s square box Brownie Twin.

The Parents series started in 1980 when Gray moved to London and felt alienated, away from home. The early pictures looked at Gray’s relationship with his parents and their relationship with each other, often expressed in a humorous way. Many of the images involved enactments of a memory or fantasy, interwoven with past events, domestic rituals, and the encroachment of old age.

In Sickness and in Health, which was begun in 2000, formed the final stage of this project, documenting his parent’s deterioration and, ultimately, his mother’s death. The hospital and church visits became more frequent, the ailments more serious, the drugs regime ever more complex. Gray found that photography was a therapeutic process, which helped him make sense of the deterioration and loss he was experiencing.

Colin Gray, born Hull, England in 1956, studied photography at the Royal College of Art, London, and lives and works in Glasgow. He has exhibited worldwide including shows at Kunsthal, Rotterdam; Encontros da Imagem, Braga, Portugal; House of Photography, Prague; Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney and Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow. Gray has appeared in numerous publications and co-published with steidlMACK, London.


Colin Gray ‘Stuffed’, 1994, from ‘The Parents’ series

David Jackson

My recent film made with my father serves as a kind of emotional inventory of my relationship with him and the house he has lived in for 24 years, first with my mother and now alone. My project may appear to be about my father at 134 Carlo Manche Street, Malta, but I’ve come to realise it’s about me, too: a son looking at his father. During the filming of This Is Not My House last summer there were moments when I would look through the camera and just have to stop, simply stunned: this is my father. I am astonished that a photograph or fragment of film is still able to capture the single point of any moment and make it an exception. Everything seems to follow from that.

David Jackson is an award winning photographer and filmmaker. He graduated from Goldsmiths with an MA Photography and Urban Cultures (Distinction) and his practice includes still and moving image. His recently completed moving image portrait of his father ‘This Is Not My House’ was shortlisted for the 2014 Danny Wilson Memorial Award at Brighton Photo Fringe and won the 2014 Hotshoe Photofusion Award. His short films have been funded by the BFI, BBC Films and Creative England and screened worldwide at numerous international film festivals. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Media Arts at the University of Bedfordshire and his research interests lie with photography and the politics of space.



Jill Daniels

My Private Life (2014) is an autobiographical film that explores long-standing secrets in the filmmaker, Jill Daniels’ Jewish family. Her parents, Barbara and Bertie were married at the end of WWII. During the course of their long lives they moved from house to house, country-to-country, through divorce, remarriage and physical violence. At the end of their turbulent lives Daniels films her parents in their small flat in suburban London while fictionalised dramatically charged re-enactments hint at a hidden narrative of physical violence and sexual ambivalence. Daniels’ becomes increasingly frustrated in her failed attempt to confront her parents’ about their secrets and it is only through the privacy of her voice, placed over family photographs and static shots of houses and flats where her parents lived, that she is able to dispute the authenticity of their memories of events in the past.

Jill Daniels is an award winning filmmaker. After studying film at the Royal College of Art she began her career with the short fiction film, I’m In Heaven (1989), about a woman who lives alone, estranged from her orthodox Jewish family. Many of her documentary films have explored her Jewish background, through the subjects of exile, memory and contested identity. In her recent films she has turned to autobiography and in 2011 she made The Border Crossing, a film about a sexual attack she suffered during a journey she took as a young woman in the Basque country. She teaches Film at the University of East London and is co-editor of Truth, Dare or Promise: Art and Documentary Revisited (2013), Cambridge Scholars.


Jill Daniels ‘My Private Life’ film still