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  • Writer's pictureJae Hodges


My next assignment for the workshop, Photography to Get to Know Yourself, is called Inventory. Using photography, we're to inventory something significant in, something that if lost would have a significant impact on, our lives. As with every one of these exercises, I've spent a good deal of time thinking about what to photograph, and consequently what it means to me. Inventory, in that sense, means to take stock of what's important, especially as the world becomes more cluttered with nonsense. I've been working on an inventory project of my own for several years already. I call it Art-ifacts, and it represents the truckloads (literally) of photos, silver, textiles, jewelry, porcelain, etc. my grandparents left to me. Each piece becomes a photograph, and a piece of art. But this assignment had me re-evaluating exactly what my purpose in this project should be.

In 1992 I gave birth to my second child, a daughter I named Katerina. One week later I took her home knowing that her days were numbered. I didn't know when she would pass, or how it would occur. Nineteen days later she died in my arms. One year later, passing through Luxembourg we pulled the car over so I could get a plant at a roadside flowershop. I chose one nestled in a birds nest. I've carefully packed and carried that bird's nest with me through every move since then. I didn't think about it at the time, but bird's nests are said to symbolize home, rebirth, and the start of new beginnings, a time for personal growth and family nurturing; it is said to be spiritual as it represents hope, guidance, and a connection to the universe's divine energy. In the years since I've been able to reflect on how appropriate this selection turned out to be.

Then, last year, thirty-three years to the day after that tragic morning, my third grandson was born. Knowing what day it was, and what it meant to me to have a new life come into the world on that day, my husband came back from the hospital gift shop with a small porcelain statue of an open hand holding a tiny girl child. While the child represents the innocence of life, the beginning and origin of all, the open hand reflects the idea that the more I receive, the more I have to give, and the more I have to give, the more I receive--life may take, but it also gives.

So, it only made sense that I should put these two pieces together as something which evokes not a sadness but a joyful moment. Very faint, to the left of the image is a shadow which represents, for me, time passing but also the perpetual presence of my daughter in my life. I may not think about her every day like I did in those early years, but there is no doubt in my mind that she is with me, always. Writing this, now, makes this photo part of my autobiography. And, now, I know why I've been photographing my family artifacts, and why I am capturing the memories that rise to the top with every image.

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