How Does Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project compare with Country Doctor? What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’? 

In 1948 W. Eugene Smith photographed the Country Doctor for life magazine. Smith visited Kremmling, which is a town in Colorado and spent just over three weeks documenting the life of the local doctor a Dr. Ernest Ceriani. According to the article that accompanied the photographs, “The town of Kremmling Colorado, 115 miles west of Denver, contains 1,00 people. The surrounding area of some 400 square miles, filled with ranches, which extend high into the Rocky Mountains, contains 1,000 more. Those 2,00 souls are constantly falling ill, recovering or dying, having children, being kicked by horses and cutting themselves on broken bottles. A single country doctor, known in the profession as a “g.p.”, or general practitioner, takes care off them all. His name is Ernest Guy Ceriani”. Smith tried to capture the details of Ceriani’s day-to-day responsibilities. He photographed the doctor and the people he was treating for various illnesses.

In 2009, Bryony Campbell created The Dad Project. This project was centered on her father who had been diagnosed with cancer and was dying. She stated, “This is my attempt to say goodbye to my dad. At first, the idea of introducing a camera into this un-resoluble equations seemed unwise, but eventually I think it become the solution. During the last eight months of his life, we recorded our relationship through photography and film. At the instant of Dad’s death my dual role felt absolutely concrete. There was no longer a separation. I wanted all the details recorded and revealed. This was the big unknown moment, one we will all have, one that nobody can envisage but everybody wonders about” (Campbell, 2009).

Comparing these two works was easier than I thought. Both have a medical element to them, in which both of them have a narrative and tells a story. One of the main differences is the point of view. In Smiths work, he took the photographs as an outsider, the narrative of his work is about the doctor. Whereas in Campbell’s work, she took the photographs as an insider. The photographs and subject was personal to her. Her narrative was herself and her father, so the relationship between the subject and the photographer is different. The other main difference was that Smith’s work was in black and white, but at the time when he photographed them there was no choice. But Campbell’s work was in colour, meaning she choose to keep her photographs in colour. Which left me wondering slightly why had she choose colour over black and white. Smith uses a photojournalistic documentary style to his work. Whereas Campbell uses the chance to document which turns into art.

Campbell stated “an ending without an ending”. I feel this refers to the end of her father’s life but not the end of his memories, as these will continue to live one through her and through her work.

Magnum Photos. Portfolio – USA. 1948. Country Doctor W. Eugene Smith. [Online]. Available from: www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3-SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDDWML5P [Accessed: 25th January 2016].

Oodee. Briony Campbell The Dad Project (A year on). [Online]. Available from: oodee.net/books/briony-campbell-dad-project [Accessed: 28th January 2016].

Time. Life – W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Portrait: ‘Country Doctor’. Time Magazine. [Online]. Available from: time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor [Accessed: 30th January 2016].


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