In a previous post I mentioned the difficulty in starting the project about my brother. He was in my life every day until I was 10 years old, but I didn’t have much contact with him after that, for a long time.

Lost wax method

In thinking of Mike’s influence on me, I recall the lost wax method of metal casting. The first step in the lost wax process is to make a sculpture out of wax; this sculpture is then surrounded by ceramic or other material which will not melt at high temperatures. When molten metal is poured into the cast, the wax melts and is replaced by the metal. As I was growing up, my waxy form was bounded by Michael’s influence in large part. Therefore, even in his absence, the experiences that poured into my life were guided by those ceramic boundaries.

Returning to Mike’s life

I believe that Mike’s 40th birthday marked my return to involvement in his life. This coincided with my interest in photography and its potential to help me express myself and explore the boundaries that defined me. I built up a small portfolio of photographs along with a narrative, as a first approximation of the project upon which I was embarking.

Speaking about my project

I was invited to speak about my nascent project to a group of photography students at New York University. In general, I received positive reviews, but one student mentioned that he didn’t think it fair that I was trying to make my reputation at the expense of my brother. Of course I would have liked to have a reputation as a great photographer, but I would never want to be exploitative. That criticism stung and I wondered if it was legitimate. I questioned my motives.


Subsequent photography classes and courses about expressing one’s vision helped to quell my fears. I concluded that I used my camera to try bringing hidden relationships to consciousness. Exploitation is a danger to which I am very sensitive.

Page in early version of book: Mike and Jack on Irish MailPage from first version of photo book: Mike and me on Irish Mail

12 thoughts on “Beginnings

  1. What’s sad is that society is set up for an arbitrary standard of ‘normal.’ Society makes no deliberate effort to provide a place for the unique gifts of those autists, aspergers or ADHD individuals. Human civilization will not benefit from those with a ‘difference’ until folks stop thinking of others as ‘diseased’ or ‘disordered’ and instead ask: “what can they off?”

    • It is sad. However, sometimes society is forced to acknowledge the contributions of those who are considered misfits. One example that comes to mind is Alan Turing, whose ‘enigma machine’ was instrumental to ending WWII. He was hounded for being homosexual, when it was illegal in Great Britian. He died at an early age and was acknowledged only many years after his death. Sad that those who are different cannot be appreciated during their time.

      • Agreed. I recently discovered autistic activist Temple Grandin. I’ve never even met her, yet I feel proud of her for some reason!

  2. The exploitation issue is one that many of us wrangle with. I feel like I am telling MY story when I blog, but because my story is about parenting and life in general, there are others who are part of my story, who influence me every day, who impact on me in a million different ways. Am I exploiting them? I don’t think so, I am acknowledging them and their influence on my understanding of the world.
    From what I have read and seen in your photographs, you are not exploiting your brother but searching for meaning.

    • As writers, maybe we should be aware of even the most subtle nuances of meaning and connotation in the words we use. Maybe we do exploit but can also acknowledge there are positive ways that benefit people and negative ways of exploitation that harms people?

      • Yes, I agree Allen. Exploiting good advice for good use Is good for everyone. Other types of exploitation that puts another down while elevating another is never appreciated (except by devotees of shock jocks and other disrespectful media – something that I truly don’t understand). It breeds resentment at best and foments hatred.

    • Thank you for that. I try to be respectful even if feelings are strong. Another thing that helps is time. If one can live with a feeling for a while, one can perhaps puzzle out reasons for strong feelings and gain more self knowledge.
      When I think of exploitation, I think of advancing one’s self at the expense of another. Raising a child, as I understand it, ‘takes a village’. I’m sure that some advice from ‘villagers’ is good and some is rejected. One exploits the good advice for good use; one always appreciates it when one’s advice is attended to.

  3. I don’t think your blog is exploitation at all, you are telling a life story, not making a mockery out of someone for laughs or other rewards. It’s hard, and I’m glad you are sharing your story, I know that I’m not the only one who has little contact with their sibling, it’s a very productive and informative blog that I can only ever hope to achieve.

    • Thank you again, Hannah. You are very kind.

      I don’t think my blog is exploitive, but when I was starting out, it wasn’t clear where I was going. The comment from the photography student reflected more of his background and where he was coming from than where I was headed. But it was a warning shot that helped to keep me aware of what my goals were. As I may have mentioned, there are a lot of photographers who go for sensationalism over sensitivity.


      • You’re right! I like the photos you post, I was wondering whether to post photos of my brother etc as it gives more realism to the blog! Perhaps when I myself feel my blog is more successful I may update the look, not too sure.

        • I think you are faced with the same issue as I was, Hannah: what would be the best way to tell your story? Don’t feel obligated to share it with the world immediately. Everyone needs a little processing time. If photography helps YOU define your story, try it. Think about what images are important and have significance for you. Then ask yourself why; then write, write, write. I wish you the very best of luck and much discovery in your quest.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: