Margaret Mitchell

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©Margaret Mitchell, Chick, 1994

Family

Family (1994) features the daily lives of my late sister Andrea and her three children, Steven, Kellie and Chick, as they navigated their lives in difficult emotional and socio-economic circumstances in Central Scotland. In 1994, the family lived in an area that consistently scored high on government statistics on deprivation across factors including health, employment, income, education and housing. Against this backdrop of disadvantage, the series concentrated on the siblings’ bonds, reflecting on their lives in all the complexity of being a child in that place, at that time and in the circumstances that they were.

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©Margaret Mitchell, from the series Family (1994)

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©Margaret Mitchell, Andrea and her three children, Steven, Kellie and Chick, 1994

The work was political in its premise, the family’s life was one where the Conservative government made it very difficult for people like Andrea to survive financially. She was also judged by the system because of who she was – a single mother by this point – and where she lived, on a ‘deprived’ housing estate. The children’s world was one of intense relationships and their lives played out in the interiors of both their own home and that of their gran’s. That is where the photographs found their story: in their childhoods containing both joy and difficulty, against this backdrop of domestic life in the situation and circumstances of that place and that time.

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©Margaret Mitchell, from the series Family (1994)

Family is a project on childhood, on a certain lived domesticity, of complex influences seeping slowly into children’s selves, contributing and shaping who they were to become. Individual images let us into aspects of the children’s lives. When viewed as a fuller documentary, the images offer a wider story of their childhood and serve as a background to the lives that unfolded as the years progressed.

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©Margaret Mitchell, Kellie, 1994

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©Margaret Mitchell, from the series Family (1994)

An updating project In This Place revisits the family’s story over 20 years later, tracing their trajectories and offering a broader commentary on environment, opportunity and social inequality. Both projects are available in the book Passage (Bluecoat Press) where three generations lay out their lives reflecting not only on the personal but also the political, presenting a story of love and loss with social inequality at its heart.