Being a good daughter to my dying dad was tricky. I struggled to find the balance between dedication to his needs and distraction from my grief. 
At first the idea of introducing a camera into this equation seemed unwise, but eventually I think it became the solution.

This is the story of an ending without an ending.
And I hope it always will be.
This is my attempt to say goodbye to my Dad with the help of my camera.

To know more about The Dad Project click here.

BrionyCampbell_0237

The Dad Project

The sunlight supported me this year…
At first it seemed to confirm my own optimism; he’d get better of course…
But after the terminal diagnosis, it served to comfort my mourning.
collecting fallen hair
Dad cried when he told me that the previous night, he’d requested a dedication to he and mum on the hospital radio, but she’d had to leave before they played it. So I made a request for Cat Steven’s Hardheaded Woman and reminded dad about a camping holiday we’d spent singing along to his greatest hits. I remembered dad smiling down at my 10 year old face and asking ‘Bug, do you think you’re a hard headed woman? I didn’t really know what it meant, but I was pretty sure he’d like me to grow up to be.
I’m looking for hardheaded women, one who will make me do my best / one who will make me feel so good. And if I find my hardheaded women, I know the rest of my life will be blessed / I know my life will be as it should. Cat Stevens
'Bug, do you think you'll grow up to be...
I couldn’t be a photographer when this happened, I was a daughter. After I’d swept up the glass I paused, for what felt like a long while, before managing to photograph the milkshake stain. Perhaps I’d proved (to myself or my parents? I’m not sure which was the necessity) that I was a daughter before a photographer.
Sitting in the garden became an event, then a days activity, and eventually a strain that he endured only to comfort us. Or was it to comfort himself? I wondered endlessly, but really there was no difference.
Family Portrait
Dad’s glass
Dree’s last visit
The inanity of endless hours in hospital, eroded his spirit. But, we only sensed that because we knew him. Outwardly he continued to shine, to give, to live, because he lived to contribute. And he lived as long as he possibly could.
I photographed the end before I saw it…
I wondered when dad would tell me that he felt it coming…
But I he didn’t
Welcome to The End
At our family dinner table Dad had always been called, ‘the dustbin’. As his appetite disappeared, Mum couldn’t bring herself to finish his food. But I could. By this point, up-holding the waste-not-want-not values he’d instilled in me felt more worthwhile than hoping he might eventually force down enough food to regain strength.
Sleep…
Drink…
Try to think
Dad left the hospital bed in the living room empty, when he returned to the hospice. I think the others found it strange that I slept in it.
Today we knew he would die soon. I went outside and looked at the sky while we waited for the ambulance. It was perfectly beautiful.
Jess and Dad
“You seem like a very kind man David”. “Well thank you Alan I tried”. Alan the paramedic's eyes were full when he replied; “Just keep on trying is all I can say to you my friend”.
When we said goodnight on his last lucid day, he said; ‘Think about what we should shoot tomorrow for the project’.
By tomorrow his shine was gone – just his shape remained.
I knew he wanted me to shoot it. His unconscious contribution.
‘Hasn’t he got beautiful hands… I always loved his hands’. Mum didn’t seemed perturbed by his yellowing skin. When he finally stopped struggling for breath he looked peaceful but very dead to me. Mum said ‘doesn’t he look beautiful… he looks beautiful to me’.
Me and Dad 25th August 2009
Me as Dad, 1986