Goodnight God Bless is an ongoing body of work which surrounds the themes of religion, motherhood, grief and gender. An idea that was born out of something Alice Dempsey had dreamt. The project tells the story of how the loss of males in her family have created a strong bond within her female family members.
The series started when Dempsey’s cousin conceived and gave birth to the first male in four generations. “My cousin Jessica has lost many men in her life, her Father, Step-Father, Uncle and both Grandfathers. When she found out she was giving birth to the first male in the family in four generations it took her by surprise. Being raised in very strong women based family is all we have known, so the idea of having a son was quite alien to her, but it has come so very naturally to her.”
The images in the series focus on the women in Dempsey’s family that have raised her, the strong matriarchal women who have been the glue within her family for many years and continue to be so. The images imply both a delicate and comfortable way of life, in which the women within the series seem to have adjusted to over time. The main subject, Alice’s cousin, is relaxed in front of the camera in a way that communicates to the audience how she is both powerful and graceful, especially when in the grasp of her first born son.
Within Goodnight God Bless, Alice speaks about religion playing an important role in her grandma’s life and you sense it within the series. It’s something that in my eyes holds a real sense of trust between the image and the audience. The Holy cross sits there peacefully against the cream walls, always positioned above the heads of the subjects, perhaps resembling the male figures in the family, watching over the women.
“Religion has become a bigger presence in our lives since the death of our Grandpa, as our Grandma, the head matriarch of the family feels it is her duty to save our souls. My Grandma takes comfort in her religion and thoroughly believes she will be reunited with the men who have passed.”
It’s a series that has been only produced by everyone being entirely comfortable within their surroundings and the real sense of normality within a handful of images is what makes the series so sensitive and down to earth. The relationship Alice has with her family is something that a lot of photographers would dream about and one that arguably can only be recreated in rare circumstances.