Edith and Len
I began photographing Edith and Leonard Crawshaw shortly after they moved from their flat into a Welsh nursing home. Following a broken hip and an extended hospital stay, Len required more care than than he had previously. That combined with problems such as negotiating stairs, the occasional burned saucepan and Edith's failing eyesight, finally led to the move. Len went from the hospital straight to the nursing home, and Edith went with him. At ages 93 and 92 respectively, Edith and Len then found themselves spending the vast majority of their day in their one room at the nursing home, where they would sit together, eat together and sleep together.
When I met Edith and Len, I had already given some thought to, and wondered about, how a couple in a nursing home would experience togetherness and how they might meet the encroaching physical and geographical limits in their daily lives.
It was clear that I could not come into Edith and Len's small room and be a fly on the wall. Nor did I wish to be. Nine months after my first visit with Edith and Len we had thoroughly and knowingly blurred the line between a conventional photographer-subject relationship and a friendship.
My ideas and interests about aging stem from my relationship with my grandmother. My investigations about growing old and facing death have taken me on an unexpected and important journey. In this work my continued concerns, questions and fears are stirred in and combined with Edith and Len's daily experience. This is reflected in entries from a diary I kept during the project. Here those entries are edited and reduced to tell a collective story about the three of us and the way we approached a photographic relationship.
Inevitably things have changed since the time Edith, Len and I worked on this project together. In November 2000, Len quietly passed away in the room he shared with Edith. Edith stayed on alone in the room until July, 2001, when she moved to another nursing home closer to her son, Roger, whom she saw frequently. Edith passed away in 2002. Edith and Len were married for 70 years. This work offers some insight into the small space that became "home" for them for over one year.
Redefining their lives and notions of home at 90-plus was difficult for the Crawshaws. My hope is that this work will add to our ideas about the transitions that accompany old age, making that time in our lives easier for ourselves and our families.
Edith and Len is a book length work featuring 67 photographs and 26 diary entries.
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