When I was twenty, my grandmother died. Recollection of the early morning conversation with my father remains vivid; his strained voice over the phone as he shared the news, my uncontrollable sobs as I struggled to accept what I had been told. Unexpectedly, her passing acted as a positive catalyst, swiftly reuniting a deeply fractured family. We flocked to each other the week following Betty’s death, offering support and love to one another; extended family that hadn’t sat in the same room for ten years now sharing meals, laughter and tears.
Horrified by the choice of caskets available for our stylish and creative matriarch, we unanimously agreed on the simple and inexpensive option. Nothing more than a sturdy white box. No frills. Not yet, anyway. The empty coffin sat propped up in our carport, as my father and uncle feverishly made modifications that spoke of her life-long love of painting and gardens. The act of decorating the coffin was a moving and memorable experience for creators as well as bystanders.
When it came to the distribution of Betty’s treasured possessions, we all regrouped as a family and organically migrated throughout the house: room by room, object by object. This felt celebratory and gentle; another chapter in our grieving process. We shared stories about Gram’s art collection, outfits, books and kitchen appliances. We marvelled at the condition of her possessions. Everything pristine and beautifully cared for. There were things in that house I had grown to love over the years: a basket of colourful building blocks, antique letter openers, glass paper weights and decorative coffee table coasters. Each possessed their own unique story. I knew what everything felt like in that house. Every surface and texture was familiar terrain.
As the afternoon rolled on, I was given a well-loved sheet-set, a vase and a painting. A modest but precious loot. As sofas were claimed along with dining room tables and buffets, I sat still and waited patiently for The Lamp. The large 1950’s creation demanded your attention with its turquoise base and long shade made from thick strands of tightly wound wool. Even as a small boy I would sit and marvel at the mystifying object, running my hand across its coarse and bulbous body, plucking the wool like swollen strings of a harp. It spoke of a time and place that was completely unfamiliar to me. I wondered if it had made its way across the ocean with the Townsend’s after their time living in New York.
Harmoniously, on that fond afternoon, the lamp entered my custody. Without argument, without negotiation, without question. Surprisingly, I was alone in my adoration for this signature piece. I had anticipated a battle to unfold but instead the lamp simply and easily entered my orbit for good. As I have moved from house to house the lamp has continued to raise eyebrows and demand attention. Conversations unfold when people ask me where it came from and I take delight in responding. I shed light on my cherished history with this object and I tell stories about my beloved grandmother, Betty, or Gram as we fondly nicknamed her; a grandmother who unknowingly left me a lamp, now a ghost who continues illuminating me.
Image-maker. Storyteller. Show pony. In an effort to continue taking photos and telling stories Sam has found himself on a perpetual fact-finding mission. Purposefully placing himself in (often challenging) environments that will likely deliver the goods. His pictures are often introspective and quiet, static frames intimately asking questions of the subject and the maker, where his stories are slightly louder; laughing hard at everyone and everything, himself included.