The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings

I met Albert Hastings in 2001 when we lived in the same neighborhood in southern Wales. Bert was renting a small flat - in what I imagine was once an elegant building, and my husband Will Reichard and I lived in a basement flat nearby. We had packed up our lives in New Mexico and come to Wales so that I could go to graduate school to study photography. Because we had no car, we walked almost daily between our flat and the city center, regularly passing the building where Bert lived.

At first I felt shy about introducing myself to Bert, but eventually I did walk over to meet him and he greeted me warmly. Not long after our first meeting I asked Bert if he would work with me on a photographic project and soon I began to learn more about aspects of his life, including his experience living through WWII in Britain, his work as a general engineer, and his relationship to the flora and fauna outside his building. As we became better acquainted I noticed, too,  the way he organized his things and his time, and I found his approaches thoughtful. As my photographic studies have evolved I have increasingly focused on ideas and depictions of home.  I often seek in my photographs the banal moments of the day—the experiences not usually considered significant enough to warrant a snapshot. I look, too, for domestic patterns and practiced daily routines that make us feel at home or that confirm, or conform to, our ideas of what home should be.

Early in this project Bert shared some intriguing thoughts and comments with me concerning my photographs of him. These comments led me to think more about the ways our ideas regarding photography differed. I wondered too how my perceptions of Bert differed from the way he saw himself. To better understand his feelings about being photographed and his reactions to my photographs, I asked Bert to caption small prints I kept in a pocket-sized notebook. Each speaking from our own perspective, we began the dialog that eventually became this book. Bert’s captions create a new context for my photographs, while some correspond to the thinking that shaped the image, others interpret the image in a different way, thereby adding a critical second perspective to this work.

In addition to the photographs of Bert, and the captions he writes, the images of Bert’s folded pajamas, nightcap, space heater atop a biscuit tin, and the simple apparatus he engineered to hold a broken daffodil up straight in a shallow teacup, all speak to me of him. I consider this work to be highly subjective and only a collection of selected moments and details, but for me these small insights have real resonance.

Bert lost his wife many years ago and subsequently lost his daughter and grandson as well. Bert moved twice during I photographed him, firstinto a flat in sheltered accommodation not too far from where he had been living, and then he agreed to move closer to his granddaughter who was his strongest support. Over time it became difficult for Bert to get enough breath to walk any distance, and he battled some medical problems. But despite these obstacles, Bert’s character remained strong. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 91.

This work is sited where Bert’s autobiographical vision, based in life experience and feeling, meets the new eye of a stranger. Together our visions and versions of his day-to-day experience sit side by side to create a new tale. At the end of this project Bert and I, of course, maintained our individual perspectives, but I think we were richer, too, for being informed by one another. I know I am.

The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings features 83 photographs by KayLynn Deveney,  77 handwritten captions by Albert Hastings and an assortment of Bert's poems, drawings and family photographs.

Click here to view selected images.