The journey to sister and
On the same day of every month for 18 years, Gavan Naden took a seemingly unremarkable picture of his children. The results map out the arc of one family’s growth, and the development of a cherished bond between siblings
Iused to be a photographer. But then I used to be lots of things: a punk, a new romantic and, for a short period, a tie-wearing accountant. These were fleeting phases and, although they once felt incredibly important, over time they have faded into history. But when my children were born, knew this phase would last for ever: fatherhood was never going to register as a “used to be” section on my CV. I was in it for the long haul. I wrote in a diary, as if to ensure I never forgot, “This is the best thing that ever happened to me”, which, although trite, has proved to be absolutely true.
It is one of those jobs you struggle to learn without doing it. Parenting books pointed me in the right direction, but nothing could prepare me properly and, anyway, I was at the age when I believed there was certainty in life.
I was told to enjoy every minute because the time would flash past. I scoffed because the early years seemed anything but fast – in fact, they crawled along. It was a period of little sleep, constant colic, tiny fingers fiddling around electrical sockets and unexplained tantrums. It all drove me to distraction. I couldn’t wait for the kids to grow up.
Now I realise I should have been more careful what I wished for.
Luckily, my subconscious ignored my irritation and the day my son was born I picked up a camera again. Then on the same day of every month I took a seemingly unremarkable photograph of my two children together.
I wasn’t interested in posed or carefully orchestrated shots and, for the first few years, I used a Polaroid camera, so there was no editing, no Photoshopping. Those pictures are now slightly faded and yellowing, which adds a nice element of authenticity. I only graduated to using my phone to take photographs when the films became harder to find. Yet looking back, most are completely unremarkable images of a brother and sister in similar poses.
In one, I can just detect that my daughter has a broken arm; in another, so does my son. Hers was the result of an off-road accident when she was thrown from a trailer; his after a tackle on the football pitch. The feeling of protectiveness and hopelessness during moments such as these was overwhelming.
When my son was a baby, I rushed him to A&E armed with a note from an out-of-hours GP. He had been ill for days and was now severely dehydrated and floppy. The harassed staff were staring at a guy with a knife in his neck surrounded by the police and, after refusing to read my letter, pointed me to the seating area to wait my turn. I was petrified my son would suddenly stop breathing. When called through to triage, he was immediately placed on a drip and slept the night on my chest.
Because of this incident, I hated the thought of my children being ill so I accentuated the healthy by photographing them whenever possible with a ball in their hands, riding horses, or out in the open, atop a windy hill or on a beach. It was proof that they were “up and at ’em” kids, who loved their sports and the outdoors. The fact my son slipped off
When my children were born, I knew this phase would last for ever: fatherhood was never going to register as ‘used to be’ on my CV
Gavan Naden, below inset, and his photographs of Holly and Oscar 1997-2015