The Walker Family: Portraiture and Place
Just before the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, alongside other volunteers, I became a ‘culture champion.’ Guided by project leader Gina Warburton, our task was to explore the nature of portraiture through a series of Victorian portraits of the Walker family.
At the start of our work into the portraits I had no idea how this project would impact my understanding of portraiture, or the strong bonds it would form beyond my work.
The Walker family were an industrious and philanthropic family that contributed to the cultural and political life of Bury during the latter half of the C19th.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Walton, Bury Art Museum
Part way through the project I was commissioned to produce a response to what we had experienced and I chose to photograph one of the volunteers, Carole.
My idea was to film the photo shoot of Carole and break through the framed silence of a portrait by allowing others a privileged peek into the portraiture process. The final image and the film are on display at Bury Art Museum.
The film of the photo shoot captured a special moment between Carole and I. For a brief second the boundaries between camera and subject dissolved and we seemed to connect on an emotional level.
To affirm that connection, I gave Carole an old mirror and captured myself within the portrait too.
Then, during the opening of the exhibition and the revealing of Carole’s portrait, I captured this moment: a portrait of Carole and family with her portrait of her and the photographer.
If anybody was in any doubt as to the power of portraiture to engage and move us, then this portrait might dispel those doubts.
I think it speaks for itself.