PHOTOGRAPHY & WORDS BY MATTHEW FINN
Like all my projects Uncle started out life through familiarity and the fact that we were in each other’s company. He made the task easy and this easiness and generosity lasted for 27 years collaborating until his death in 2014.
With the death of my father in 1994 on the eve of his funeral I was told by my mother that I would meet several half brothers and sisters the following morning. It was at this time I discovered my father was a bigamist. Married to 5 different women in Leeds. On the evening after his funeral my new family and I poured through the family albums. As each one was opened we all discovered we had been replaced with a different mother, a new child. What remained was our father, his car and holiday backdrops that stayed constant.
It was strange to think back at all the times I believed I saw my fathers car in front of several houses only to be told that it is just a similar car. Now knowing that these were the places he called home.
I never told my mother what I had seen in these albums nor did we ever discuss my father again. What became important to me was how photography and the act of photographing could replace the need for awkward conversations. Firstly through photographing my mum then my uncle.
For over three decades I photographed my family within there home in Leeds. Reminded of happy times immortalised in the albums that now became a reminder of photography’s ability to lie I stayed clear of these traditions and concentrated on the everyday, the mundane, the monotonous routines of how most lives are lived behind closed doors. I was interested in recording boredom and domestic rituals. For my mother that was cleaning, ironing, washing up, cooking, watching TV and enjoying a cigarette and a glass of wine. For her brother it was watching TV and wandering around practising his golf swing within the kitchen whist pretending to understand how to work the microwave.
This was a couple living out familiar roles. My uncle the bread winner, my mother the domestic carer and me behind the lens watching and slowly documenting these rituals of quiet everyday existence.
Later I discovered why I had been born in Manchester and not Leeds where I was brought up. Ridiculed at school for not been able to play for Yorkshire. I was born with the intention that my mother would give me up. With Manchester having the only abortion clinic in the North of England in 1971. My uncle came over the Pennines and persuaded my mother that it would be O.K .
I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for my mother and the courage she and her brother showed. We never spoke about this. Photography again became the conversation.
Uncle is my thank you to an exceptional man who was always my father in my eye’s. 27 years is never enough.