Love Land (2021-)

Memories are ghosts. Lingering fragments of something that once was. Wisps of time that are no longer cemented in a linear timeline but instead float through their own dimension. Appearing and disappearing, constantly morphing, evolving, and dissolving. When I think of my father, I hear the distant echo of electric guitar, reverberating up from the basement. I taste smoked trout and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think of a small apartment, lit only by the blue glow of a television screen left on for too long. I think of green washed hospital corridors and the smell of ammonia. My father’s alcoholism haunted my adolescence. It was a large, unspoken, foreboding thing that cast a long shadow across my girlhood. Now, twelve years after his death, I am still trying to understand him, to feel him, to forgive him. For the past two years, I’ve returned to my hometown every few months, revisiting troublesome memories I had once buried deep inside of me. I photographed my childhood home and the neighborhood he moved to after my parents’ divorce. I went back to one of the many rehabilitation centers he stayed in, his old fishing spots, and my elementary school. I used expired film and the old camera my father had left behind to forge a tactile connection to the past. I let the light and the words he wrote guide me. His writing and my photographs have conversations across time, speaking to each other in a language I don’t need to hear to understand. This work allowed me to create my own landscape forged by my history. Memories became my present reality as time folded in on itself. I wandered the familiar ground with a new set of eyes, walking step by step with my child self. These are photographs of reconciliation—with my history, with my father, with my sorrow.

© helena ernst