Joyce Crago grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario. In 2014, she left behind her career as a lawyer to pursue photography. Her motivations, however, remain constant: to understand situations, and issues.
“The title of this body of work is Illness and Death. In our society happiness is required. How do we express grief in a sustained or thoughtful way? In January 2018 my younger sister, Hazel, died suddenly and without warning. In a second my longest standing relationship was forever altered. I was lost. And in many ways I still am.
“Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.”
- Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Shortly before Hazel died I had a perforated appendix and spent six nights in the hospital for the first time in my adult life. I came to live in the country of Illness.
After Hazel died, I came to realize how so-called advanced, modern industrial societies do not deal with death. And I came to see first hand how illness and death are experienced as shameful, as something to hide. Something to be gotten over as quickly as possible, so that everyone and everything can return to a state of normalcy.
“Positive thinking requires deliberate self-deception, including a constant effort to repress or block out unpleasant possibilities and negative thoughts.”
- Julia Cooper, The Last Word, Reviving the Dying Art of Eulogy
I have come to realize that happiness and profound sadness are not mutually exclusive. Life is not a binary situation. I do not believe that either I’m happy, in which case I talk about all the good things that are happening in my life, or that I think about Hazel and am often profoundly sad.
A wise friend told me to “put one foot in front of the other” and “address your complex relationship and feelings for Hazel and mortality through your work”. I have also come to realize that for me, my work is a unique blessing.
This is the first time I have written about Hazel for my work. The objects in the images – bloody bandages, pills, an abandoned, corroded pipe – speak to my ongoing quest to rediscover order under circumstances that are never propitious and out of materials that are less than promising. Ultimately, to understand.”