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Photographer Searches For His Elusive Father Through Memories and Old Photographs

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“A catalog of attempts to find my father, who died in 1989.”

Five years in the making, Egg Hunt is the enigmatic journey through lost memories in search of Jim Reed‘s elusive, troubled father and the family he left behind. Founder of Easter Trouble Press and photobook connoisseur, Reed worked with photographs and inkjet ink paintings, and re-photographed old family photos to complete the project. We recently asked him to tell us more.

Egg Hunt is now available as a hand-stitched photobook through Easter Trouble Press both in the U.S. and internationally.

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How did Egg Hunt develop?
“In 2011 I went to Florida to find the spot where my family had been photographed together 25 years earlier to the day. The photograph had a special meaning for me because it was the last one taken before my parents separated and my father died. So I went back, wandered around trying to figure out exactly where it was taken, calling my mother periodically to try and get her to rack her brain to remember details from more than 20 years ago.

“I wasn’t sure if I found the right spot but I still took a picture with my 4×5 camera of a churchyard where I thought we had been on that day. We were celebrating Easter Sunday together, my brother and I doing an egg hunt in the yard. It was only when I got back home that I realized I had photographed the right spot for the egg hunt but the wrong spot for the family portrait. From there I started photographing other places where my family had lived and the hospitals and homeless shelters where my father spent a lot of time in his last years.”

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This project is about your father and how you and your own family coped with his nervous breakdown. Did you find difficult to make work that reflects on this theme?
“There were a lot of difficulties in telling this story. My father had a nervous breakdown that then suspended him in a state of paranoia the rest of his life. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenic thought patterns. He had fears about the FBI and believed that security cameras were spying on him and also accused several people of trying to kill him. With Egg Hunt I had a big problem since a lot of young photographers start with work about their family and there’s always a risk of self-indulgence, or of being so confessional that you really leave yourself exposed and can hurt people around you.

“I photographed documents and used the framing of the camera to heighten the content, just as I would in a scene out in the world. I also photographed drugstore prints in my mother’s photo albums. The most far-out thing I did was to take up painting, in order to reproduce immaterial things like memories or quotes passed on to me in spoken form. But even there I restricted myself to using photographic ink jet ink on photo paper.”

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Has this work been healing for you?
“I was most surprised by the healing nature of re-photographing the old family 4×6 prints. It brought me closer to my memories of my father—zooming in on his hands, his posture—or seeing how he supported my weight holding me, or the creases in his clothes and his outfits. That did much more for me than years of therapy. I would highly recommend it to anyone with childhood baggage.”

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This post was contributed by photographer and videographer Adam Forrester.

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