Photography

Ciera Broussard's "Eulogy of Bellingham" Investigates Perception and Shifting Memories

July 27, 2018

Ciera Broussard is an experimental and documentary photographer based in Oakland, CA. Her work centers on the way light manipulates memory, and she uses this to create a narrative with relics and forgotten places. In her latest series, Eulogy of Bellingham, Broussard documents how her grandmother's Alzheimers diagnosis has changed Broussard's own perception of memories, not only of her grandmother but also of her grandmother's hometown, Bellingham, Washington. Below, Broussard has provided a statement regarding this project:

"Bellingham, Washington is a medium sized college town about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. It’s tucked in a small bay with Mt. Baker looming over it and it is where my grandmother Linda lives.

Linda is about 5 feet tall with a slight slouch. Her hair is made up of wispy thin ringlets that somehow make her look even smaller than she is. She smiles often, and when she speaks her voice has a coo to it. Until recently, she was never caught without her small one-eyed Bichon-Frise, “Alfred E. Newman” nestled between her arms like a fat toddler who couldn’t walk yet. The only person I see her get angry at is my grandfather and even that seems to fade off after a few minutes of silence and an exasperated “Oh for Christ’s sake Wilbert.” She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008. She has become the embodiment of my nostalgia and my obsession with documenting.

As she is getting older and more distant, I find myself romanticizing this somewhat uneventful town and the people I’ve met within it. I’ve begun to treat Bellingham as if it too was losing all of its memories of me. Every corner is tied to some memory of her, and I dread the day that I have no reason to visit. Sometimes the space of the town becomes a proxy where I can engage with my feelings of grief while still shielding myself from the stronger emotions I feel for my grandmother.

I have become the keeper of her memories, trying to sew them together in ways that make the fog between herself and what was once hers dissipate, if only for a few minutes. I bring her a book full of her photos each time and more often than not she’s already forgotten the last book existed. It is fascinating to see the sincerity of her responses when she looks at them. Sometimes people ask why I still make the books if she forgets about them every time. I respond that it's inconsequential compared to giving her back her autonomy, if only for a moment.

Each time I see her, my grandmother tells me that these books are the best things anyone could have given to her. What I have received from her is so much more. She gave me the one passion that has made me have to sit and observe: to connect with my surroundings, even when they are unwilling to do the same. I have become sentimental to a fault because of her and addicted to the feeling of finding any way to make these memories a tangible artifact. Bellingham, Washington may be nothing more than a small college town but it has become the center of my passion, and I hope to continue to translate that into my other works even when it no longer has a place for me."––Ciera Broussard