Will Harris: You Can Call Me Nana
As with all things in life, the physical reality of an object or person is truly more satisfying. I certainly find this with photo books. There is something about actually holding a book as you consider its size and weight, the quiet experience of turning the pages and absorbing the subject matter. And through the process, the book imprints itself on your psyche. When Will Harris’ new monograph, You Can Call Me Nana, arrived, I was excited to take the journey through the pages of his remarkable visual storytelling. The size of the book sits between the space of a bible and a journal and maybe the book is a little bit of both, maybe it’s a scrap book of sorts, but ultimately it’s a love story of the best kind.
I have often thought, that when a person becomes diminished through age or poor health and needs more care, we begin to see them apart from the vital individual they once were. And it’s only in the photographs and memories of that person that we reignite the energy of their presence. When Harris’ grandmother Evelyn developed dementia later in life and began to decline, Harris shifted his relationship to one of friend and memory keeper. The book is a tribute to her life, reminding us of the universal thread to those who come before us, those who shape us and love us. Like all good stories, his photographs, ephemera, collages, and family archives weave into a beautiful telling of a person, complete with a recipe for waffles and a Polaroid that slips out at the end. Published by Overlapse, this monograph allowed Harris to reconsider familial histories and create a new family album that will keep her memory alive in future generations
Based in Philadelphia, PA, Will Harris completed an MFA in Photography & Integrated Media at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Will’s work currently explores the themes of memory, familial history, sense of place and legacy. In 2019 he was a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass and in that same year he was named one of the Six standout young artist starting their careers by the Boston Globe. In early 2020 he received a Black Creative Endeavors Grant, awarded by Something Special Studios in New York. Will’s first monograph You can call me Nana is being published by Overlapse, an independent visual arts and photo books imprint based in London UK.
You can call me Nana
In this work I confront the complexities of my Nana, Evelyn Beckett’s dementia, by fabricating the pieces that have gone missing. Within my Nana’s mind, history and fiction collide, creating something strangely new, haunting and at times painfully beautiful. Ten years ago was now ten minutes ago. There were no seasons; the clocks stood still. My grandmother was both lost and reborn. Fragments of the person I used to know would come to me now and then, but she was no longer my Nana and there was no one to hold our familial history together. Evelyn Beckett was the gatekeeper, and she left her post. A new relationship began; once her grandson, I became an old friend. My mother, her only child, ultimately became a caregiver. Although I felt a profound loss, I also had a sense of a new friend. As we mined the archive of her life, I began to reconstruct and deconstruct all that was known to be true in an unconscious collaboration with Evelyn.
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