Project 1 Telling a story
Exercise: How does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor? Make some notes in your learning log.
These works are photo essays or linear storylines.
W.Eugene Smith made the photographic essay Country doctor for life magazine in 1948. He chronicled the life of General Practitioner Dr Ernest Cerani, in Colorado for 23 days.
Briony Campbell’s The Dad Project (2009) tells the story of her relationship with her father and his death from cancer.
Country Doctor: The American Medical Association were concerned about the future of the GP and stated in the opening of the editorial their support for general practise (Anderson). Smith was commissioned to document the life of a doctor who was responsible for the health of people covering 400 square miles, “These 2,000 souls are constantly falling ill, recovering or dying, having children, being kicked by horses and cutting themselves on broken bottles” (Magnum photos, 2014).
The Dad Project: Campbell’s text contextualises the project well. She seemed to hope that by chronicling her father’s death it would help her cope when he was gone, she was not sure at the outset of her work that it would be shared with wider audiences. Her Father’s encouragement and collaboration was crucial to her. Before she decided to go ahead she realised that The Dad Project could open dialogues about loss in others and that the project could be both “personal and universal” (Campbell 2013).
Country doctor: The narrative in the photographic essay early on gives a positive and heroic slant on the subject, “A single country doctor, known in the profession as a g.p, or general practitioner, takes care of all of them” (cited in Magnum photos, 2014).
The Dad project: Campbell’s narrative is compelling and adds a huge amount to the images. I have not been able to read the complete narrative to the Country Doctor.
Relationships to subjects: Impact on the photographer
W.Eugene Smith: He tried to immerse himself in his subject and began slowly without film in his camera to “help Ceriani get used to his presence without wasting precious film”. (Cosgrove, 2012). Cosgrove suggests that his work contains “unsettling intimate pictures” and would agree with this (Cosgrove, 2012)
Campbell: Obviously had a close natural relationship with her subject. She photographed herself to show others how she was feeling, although she was concerned that this was narcissist. “It is the collaborative partnership that makes it stand out from their projects that invisibilise the photographer, pretending at their absence when their presence is the actual core of the work”. .” (Turnbull, 2015).
Impact on viewers:
Country Doctor: According to Life,com it was an instant classic “setting Smith firmly on a path as a master of the unique art form of the photo essay, and solidifying his status as one of the most passionate and influential photojournalists of the 20th century” (cited in O’Neill, 2012). Smith said that “that essay changed people’s lives and gave them a feeling of inspiration for good, and compassion (Hill and Cooper, 1992). Ceriani thought the photo essay portrayed him working harder than he did, however his patients didn’t agree (Anderson, 2015).
The Dad project: Campbell herself points out that the Dad Project has been seen by tens of thousands of people around the world and that it provoked “overwhelming responses” (Campbell 2009). It was exhibited for her Masters course, published in the Guardian weekend magazine, in Spain’s El Mundo and shown at the Photographers gallery. Campbell did make different edits for the different audiences.
The impact of the Country Doctor is more astonishing when you consider that in 948 there was no Television and no social media, whilst Campbell had audiences on social media, at exhibitions.
What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?
Though her Father’s life has ended he lives on in her work and her relationship with him continues as she reflects on, edits and represents their work together in the Dad Project.
Campbell, B. (2013) The dad project. Available at: http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Cosgrove, B. (2012) W. Eugene Smith’s landmark portrait: “Country doctor.” Available at: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Hill, P. and Cooper, T.J. (1992) Dialogue with photography. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications.
Magnum photos (2014) Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/Package/2TYRYDDWML5P (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
O’Neill, C. (2012) Revisiting “country doctor,” A 1948 photo essay. Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2012/01/10/144916879/revisiting-country-doctor-a-1948-photo-essay (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (2015) “Country doctor-a Colorado story,” by Bob Anderson, MD on September 21st, 2015. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slKACBnRskU (Accessed: 14 December 2016).
Gemma-RoseTurnbull (2015) The dad project. Available at: http://www.asocialpractice.com/the-dad-project/ (Accessed: 14 December 2016).