The Photographer Who Captured His Grandmother’s Death To Challenge Memory

The Photographer Who Captured His Grandmother’s Death To Challenge Memory

Avatar of Geovanni M

By: Geovanni M

January 10, 2017

Photography The Photographer Who Captured His Grandmother’s Death To Challenge Memory
Avatar of Geovanni M

By: Geovanni M

January 10, 2017

Nobody is safe, whether human, animal, or object.  Death and oblivion are indiscriminate in their chase. Yet Yael Martinez attempts to fight against the loss of memory with his lens. 

photographer grandmother death family

His grandmother contracts her face and attempts a smile that never actually happens. Then her face changes while Yael keeps taking pictures to keep her forever suspended in time.

photographer grandmother death images

photographer grandmother death memory

Yael Martinez Velazquez was born in 1984. He’s been a part of several workshops in his native Oaxaca, Mexico. El Olvido, Oblivion, his first project, captures his Grandmother Carmen’s fight against Alzheimer’s. This illness devoured her little by little, until all that was left of her memory were fragments remembered by family members and the images taken by her grandson.

photographer grandmother death illness

photographer grandmother death remembering

“Every Friday when I was a kid, my sister Miriam and I would go stay over at my grandmother’s. My sister would sleep in a bed with my aunt and I would stay with my grandmother. I can still remember the peculiar scent of my grandmother’s bed. We’d fall asleep telling stories or singing. These were the last memories that would come to mind during the last stage of her illness.”

photographer grandmother death pain

photographer grandmother death bath

Martinez’s images reflect the cruelty of a world where forgetting becomes the main activity. Oblivion takes over the alphabet and dictionary of our minds. This illness begins by snatching names, then faces, and continues until there’s nothing. Silence is oblivion.

photographer grandmother death

photographer grandmother death yael martinez

His work has made Martinez winner of the 2011 and 2013 FONCA Young Creators Scholarship as well as other awards. His images are exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum of Aguascalientes and the National Sound Archive.

photographer grandmother death change

photographer grandmother death passing

“The last few months of my grandmother’s life I felt like she was trying to create a world of memory that would anchor her to ours. She rarely recognized me during that time (…) There were some instances where I saw brief instances of lucidity, where her memories were fresh and she could connect with us…”

photographer grandmother death trunk

photographer grandmother death television

photographer grandmother death shoe

The images also include objects that belonged to his grandmother: a couch, a set of rooms, trunks, and windows that will never recover the essence that filled them with life. The existence where fingers, feet, words, and a particular, heartfelt glance once stood. Moments part of a lost battle. The illness took everything with it like a black hole.

photographer grandmother death room

photographer grandmother death dining room

Maria del Carmen Mejia passed away at the age of 64. Yet she lives on in the portraits of Yael. They all speak of the look of a woman who would tuck him in when he was young. “This series is a representation of the development of my maternal grandmother’s illness (…) worrying about death led me to create this document as a way to assimilate, confront, and discern the end of life’s natural process.”

photographer grandmother death couch

photographer grandmother death bed

Maria del Carmen passed away and her illness died with her. Yet there is still a part of her that continues to live on through her memory and that of those who loved her.

If you’re interested in discovering more about Yael’s work, check out his page.

Translated by María Suárez