Celine Marchbank - Guest Lecture

Celine Marchbank, is a documentary / art photographer. Who also does some commercial work. Celine came into our university to give a talk on her work. Up until 2010 Celine was a graphics designer, then decided to peruse photography as a career instead and has been working in the photography industry ever sines and been doing her commercial work for 6 years. 

Celine has crated a number of personal works. Her first being called “Tulip” which was a series created when her mother was diagnosed with stage 4  lung cancer in 2009. Her mum had developed tumours in her brain and third of her spine. It was confirmed terminal in April 2010. 

Throughout the treatment Celine said that her mother stayed strong and fisty. With the mind set that she was not going to lose against cancer. That she would get better. She was a strong single mother, who had been through a lot throughout her life and was not going to give up on or fear the cancer. At the beginning of the documentary the idea that all was going to be fine, hense photographying to keep the positivity of the situation going, rather than giving up. Photographing at the beginning helped to distract Celine and her mother for the scary side of it all. 

There was a photo that celine showed us which she took standing in the hospital room when they found out that the cancer was terminal. After that she put the camera straight down and was no longer the photographer, she was the daughter again. I found this interesting as she saw being the photographer as being seprate from being her mothers daughter. She had to be in one role or the other and could not be both at the same time. After this the realisation of how it was not only effecting her mum but effecting her came clear. Photographing the illness took Celine away from the personal connection as she believed she was a photographer until the illness got worse she was the daughter again. Celine’s work had a more personal connection from there onwards. 

It progressed form photos of the treatment to the actual illness itself. Moments that were important for example losing her hair during chemo therapy. 

Flowers were a constant presents in the series. Celine thought the cycle of life of the flowers, the new coming in and the old dieing represented what was happening to her mother in a simplistic and beautiful way. The fact that flowers are given in celebration and illness showed contrast to a happy and a bad situation. Tulips were the main flower given to her mother throughout her illness as they were her favoutite. Which lead to the name of the book.

Celine found herself taking more photos of her mothers house, what was going on in it and would eventually change. Celine’s mother was a chef for 30 years and after her chemo treatments her eating habits changed. She could only really eat sweet soft things, such as melon and figs. 

During her talk Celine mentioned Frank her mothers cat. Who to anyone but her mother was horrible too. Although companionship is mostly assoiated with dogs, Celine mentioned how Farnk was always with her mother showing how strong the companionship and loyal animals are to their owners. Frank also to Celine symbolised being at home and being content with where we are.

The chemo that her mother was under going caused Celine’s mother to be fine some days, in which they would mostly cook her recipes and spend quality time enjoying her time when she felt well. Other days though she would struggle. There is one photo which I find very powerfull and that is of Celine’s mother goning up the staris on her hands a knees. Celine said this was beause she did not want to admit to being stranded. Her mother never spoke about dieing, in her mind she was always going to beat it. 

There is a photo of some green tomato’s included in the book this I feel is very powerful after hearing that Celine and her mother planted them and that it was possible that her mother would never see them ripen. Two days after this Celine’s mother passed away. 

The book “Tulip” was published 5 years after her mother died. From all the photos Celine took she edited them down to 85 images within about 5/4 weeks after her mother passing. Throughout the book Celine wanted it to be colourful to show her mothers personality. Every flower picture within the book is a double page spread and the photos of her mother are smaller and more intemate. 

The photos did not stop after her mothers death though. Celine kept photographing and created her series of work which is called:   

“A stranger in my mothers kitchen” This was the second project that Celine talked to us about. The series was about grief and about how you get to know it and understand it. Celine said that the personality of the house changed after her mothers passing. The house died with her mother and was now just an empty house, no longer her mothers house without her in it.  

During this series Celine discovered things that she did not know existed. Recipes for example, passed down all folded and stained. They were lived with and used. Here is were Celine realised she took for granted her mother always cooking with her. Now because of her recipes she could keep her mother alive by cooking her meals herself. Through doing this it brought back memories of Celine and her mother cooking together in her childhood. The whole series was about recoding how Celine dealt with her grief. Cooking was a distraction and also a help to deal with her grief. 

One picture that was taken in this series was a photo of some brussel sprouts I was touched by the meaning behind it. It’s a simple picture and yet means so much. Celine said that at Christmas they never had sprouts because her mother hated them, but their first Christmas after her passing her brother brought some. It symbolises she was not going to be with them for anymore Christmases. 

While going through her things Celine found so many things that were sentimental to them but also things that were used every day but had more meaning now due to her passing. Such as her kitchen equipment, in amoungst it all was the tools her mother used to use to make her baby food which Celine uses now when cooking to connect more with her mother. To her it showed a time of family and enjoyment. 

After moving to her first house Celine grew tomato plants in an alchmonet near by. When clearing the alchment space the only plant that was growing in it was a single tulip. This was a sign to Celine as if her mother had wanted her to have it. Marked by her mother for her. 

Celine has also done many commercial works. Celine keeps her personal works away from her commercial. Her current works includes doing work for the NHS - Brighton Hospital is being rebuilt and they have commissioned Celine to create works to be put up on the walls to make it all less clinical. To create a sense of home into a medical location. This all came about from her personal work one her mother. It opened up more doors for her to develop and grow in her career path. 

Celine’s work I feel is very powerful and true which is what I personally try to put across in my own work. After hearing her talk with so much emotion is how I would like to be able to talk about my own work. In a confident and brave way were all that matters is the work its self and how it comes together.

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