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2018 SPE Annual Conference: Uncertain Times: Borders, Refuge, Community, Nationhood / Hosted by The University of the Arts

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Tarah Sloan

SPE Member since 2017
Member Chapter: Southeast

A Process of Healing

I began this photo documentary of my mother a few months after my brother passed away from cancer. This project reflects her daily life once she had gotten back to her past routine- before having to take care of Daron. After witnessing my mother overcome the loss of her husband, sister, and only son all within five years, I felt compelled to photograph her. I strived for these images to communicate with viewers the sense of loneliness and longing she had been facing for several months. This documentary is a means of understanding the pain, suffering, and sorrow the vast majority of people will go through at some point in their lifetime after losing a loved one.
Once I started this project, I began studying the stages of grief a person naturally goes through after the death of a loved one. I made a point to photograph my mother when I saw her going through each part of the process in relation to the articles and books I had been researching. I would observe my mother’s behaviors as she began her day, her actions through a typical day teaching, and what her afternoons at home from work would predictably consist of (i.e. being in her yard or looking through old photographs of the family). Through these photographs, I captured the essence of my family’s home and the environment my mother lives in. To help better shape my understanding of how to compose these images, I began studying photographers who had documented their families with a means of timelessness to their composition. I drew inspiration from photographers, such as Sally Mann and her photo series Immediate Family. While the majority of this series was photographed digitally, by the second half of the project I had begun photographing and developing black and white medium format negatives to better capture a range of focus and tonality in the photographs. By the end of the quarter I had taken hundreds of photographs reflecting how I saw my mother’s emotional endeavors; her sadness, her joys, and her patience all grow and develop into a story that not only needed to be told for hers and my sake but for anyone who has or has not yet experienced such grief. I find that photography is one of the best outlets for storytelling and a way of expression. I believe this is echoed in the final collection of photographs from this extensive documented project of my mother. My goal is to continue this body of work of my mother as she carries on with her life in both good times and bad.
This is A Process of Healing in its most raw form.

Staying in Bed

A Good Morning Routine

In a Days Work

Breaks Between


Old Photographs

Angels and Urns

Pulling Weeds

Yard Work

Portrait of Daron

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