"Half of One and Six of the Other" an artist's vulnerable portraits shed light on the familial role of caretaking
I first saw Ellen Snowballs series “ Half of One and Six of the Other” at OCAD University's 2015 graduate exhibition. The work took a hold of you whether or not you invited it to. It was a raw walk through the intimate moments of a young woman caring for her ill mother. Though the work focused on Snowballs mother Marie-Louise, i continued to fixate on Ellen’s presence in the images; reflecting on my own familial role.
Snowball is a photographer and artist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada whose photographic process often explores themes of identity, illness, and loss. In her statement about the work, Snowball explains the series as “ images and videos that document illness within a personal context; my mother, Marie-Louise Snowball, now 65, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in the fall of 2013. In an appointment with my mother's neurologist, it was proposed by the doctor that she would only have four years left before her disease would finally devour her body, either leaving her estranged to reality or dead. The progression of her disease is on an aggressive route, affecting both her cognitive abilities as well as her physical mobility."
There is a strange role a child fills when their family is dealing with illness, and this only grows more complex when the child themselves is struggling as well. The give and take of caring and being cared for is a delicate line, in which inevitably one feels neglected.
"Half of One and Six of the Other copes with Louise's battle against her degenerative illness, as well as an attempt to understand personal and universal conflicts with illness, death, loss, and pain that circulate within family structures” explains Snowball.
There is a strange role a child fills when their family is dealing with illness, and this only grows more complex when the child themselves is struggling as well. The give and take of caring and being cared for is a delicate line, in which inevitably one feels neglected. In Snowballs work I not only experienced a familiar narrative, but also saw myself in her presence. Who cares for our caregivers? How do we validate and maintain our own mental illness, when caring for anothers? Where are the support programs for supporters? “Half of One and Six of the Other” raises all of these questions, and sheds light on the immense vulnerability that exists within both roles.
To view more of Ellen's work please visit www.ellensnowball.com .
Maddie Alexander is an artist, wrtier, and arts facilitator work and living in Toronto. They obtained their BFA in Photography from OCAD University, and their practice deals with themes surrounding queer identity, mental illness and art for social change.