Countless life experiences and events make up our identity. We experience periods of change and adaptation in our lives—when we are young, we can’t wait to be teenagers; when we are teenagers, we can’t wait to be adults—because surely we’ll have it all figured out by then. Eventually we realize that we never really have it figured out, and rolling with the punches is the only option. Some of those punches are impossible to dodge.
I first became interested in photographing widows and widowers after a conversation with my grandmother. At the time, I was photographing strangers and recording their stories. After describing the project to my grandmother, she told me I would probably have a lot of elderly widows as subjects because they just want someone to talk to. I’ve had many conversations with my grandmother about relationships and loss, but this comment really made me stop and think about what it means to lose the person with whom you’ve created your life. When you spend thirty, forty even fifty years with the same person—molding your existence around him or her, becoming dependent on his or her presence—how do you function when your partner is no longer there?
The photographic body of work, The Fifth Stage, is an exploration of the ways in which people cope with one of the most difficult adaptations they will ever have to make—the loss of a life partner. Though some things remain unchanged from an outside perspective—the living room décor, the coats hanging by the entryway—in the psychological reality of the surviving spouse, everything is different. My photographs show both the banalities that remain after loss and the nuanced traces of the person who is no longer there.