There is something special about long-term projects, and something poignant. One such project I recently discovered moved me deeply, and I am honored to share it here with you. Photographer Deanna Dikeman spent 27 years photographing her parents as they waved her goodbye after her visits. It sounds simple, but these photos tell a story that makes a strong impact. A story about aging, love, family… and about how hard it is to say goodbye.
Deanna named her series Leaving and Waving. Like many great projects, this one started without her intention to turn it into a series. In fact, these photos are a part of her larger body of work named Relative Moments, showing her parents’ and relatives’ lives from 1986 onwards.
It all started with a quick snapshot Deanna took in 1991. She went to visit her mom and dad at their home in Sioux City, Iowa. They were waving her goodbye and she thought to take a photo of them in this pose. “I never set out to make this series, Deanna explains. “I just took these photographs as a way to deal with the sadness of leaving.” However, the photos gradually turned into a good-bye ritual for the family, despite her mom sometimes scolding her about it.
Like many long-term projects, this one also shows many changes people go through over the years. But what I love about this series is that these changes are not the main focus. What I saw first was parents’ love, along with the sadness of saying goodbye. Only then I paid attention to other details: the change of seasons, Deanna’s parents getting older, her son being in a baby seat, in the passenger seat, and finally in the driver’s seat. So much has changed over the years.
In 2009, Deanna took the last photo with her dad in it. He passed away a few days after his 91st birthday.
“My mother continued to wave good-bye to me,” Deanna writes, adding that “her face became more forlorn” every time they said goodbye. Indeed, the change in her mom’s face is visible in the photos, and it adds a new dimension to the already moving series.
In 2017, Deanna’s mother had to leave her home and move to assisted living. During the next few months, the two would say their good-byes from Deanna’s mom’s apartment door. Sadly, she passed away in October of 2017. “When I left after her funeral, I took one more photograph, of the empty driveway. For the first time in my life, no one was waving back at me.”
I found this series incredibly moving, sad, but above all wonderful. It also hit me on a personal level because it made me remember my grandparents. They would always wave goodbye until I could no longer see them from the back seat of my dad’s car. I passed by their home this past Thursday, after who knows how many years. No one was waving back at me, either.
[via New Yorker]