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Photo Essays

Serge Van Cauwenbergh | My Grandmother Germaine

I’m currently documenting the life of my grandmother, the only grandparent I have left. It’s a personal long-term project that I started in August 2008. In 2010 however, I started to photograph her life more frequently.

My intention is to document the consequences of her high age on her own life. I’m also interested in photographing little details, gestures and expressions, by most people overlooked during a regular visit. My dad often asks me when and where I took the images I show him. He admits that most of the time he doesn’t notice all those little details.
During the most part of her life she and my grandfather worked long hours every day, very hard manual labour. They cultivated blue grapes. Unfortunately, this profession has become very hard in Belgium. These days most of the grapes are imported from Italy, South-Africa or South-America. For several years now, her interest in maintaining the garden and greenhouses is going downhill very fast.
She experienced the Second World War; educated three children; lost my grandfather (68) in 1983; lost a son-in-law (52) in 2004; and more recently she lost a grandchild (29), a great-grandchild (1 day old); her own sister (87); and her daughter (my aunt) had to recover for 10 months in the hospital after a cardiac arrest.
Since last year she started to suffer from short-term memory loss.
The last few years those tragic incidents had an impact on everyone, especially on my grandmother who had to process those incidents at the age of almost 90. What she had to endure in her entire life has engraved itself onto her face…

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