“In This Place” looks at family and home, connections and place, touching on issues of social and personal inertia.
Over 20 years after my first project, Family, in 1994, I returned to photograph my sister’s three children—Steven, Kellie and Chick—and update the story of where their lives have taken them in adulthood. The resulting work traces the narrative of their present-day lives and that of their own children. In the intervening years, their mother—my sister—died, and all the children from the earlier project have moved from one estate poised to undergo urban regeneration to another, where they live in pockets yet to be touched by redevelopment.
“In This Place” raises questions about choice—do we have choices in life, or are some predetermined or made for us? When can a “place” be both mental and physical; a place where we put ourselves and where we are put, sometimes by others and sometimes by circumstance? What puts us there, what keeps us there—and do we want to be there?
Life feels somewhat static in the housing estates of central Scotland; as the world changes, the lives of my extended family remain relatively still and immobile. Within this social landscape, movement has occurred—but only from one area that scores high in government statistics on deprivation to another. A simple bus ride across town.
My photographs present a personal—yet universally relatable—story of family, loss, love and survival set within a wider socioeconomic context. Against a backdrop of parental loss and limited opportunities, there is a glue that binds the original three children together now as adults—living in similar flats, in the same area—intertwined and interdependent as they were as children in 1994. The family renews; it endures.
Editor’s Note: Mitchell’s project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents! You can follow Mitchell’s work on her personal website. Work from this series will be exhibited at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow until June 18, 2017.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like these previous features: Stories from the Kitchen Table, Astrid Reischwitz’s inventive compositions that pay homage to her family home in Germany’s countryside; Side of the South, a rumination on family and society in the American south; and The North Fork, Trent Davis Bailey’s project on finding his relatives in rural Colorado’s unique natural landscape.