Last weekend I went to Jemima Filiss’s wedding to Matt Cook. I don’t know Matt, but have known Jemima since she was a baby. She was a significant child in that she was her parent’s last child and the only daughter among eight sons. I made this photograph of Jemima and her father, Lionell, a few months after she was born in 1983. Lionell birthed all of the children in their small cabin on Foster Creek. I’ve always liked the photograph, as seemingly did Lionell and Mary who had it framed on their mantel for many years; but I’ve never had the opportunity to publish it.
The image spoke to me about relationships between fathers and daughters, which can be decidedly different than those between men and their sons. More protective perhaps, tender, and soft in ways we might not be with male offspring. Like most pictures it also spoke to me about time and place. Madison County in 1983 was a place alternative people had gravitated to for over a decade. It was a time and a place to get away from the mainstream, where you could live life according to your own rules, obeying your own values, following your own instincts. Lionell and Mary, and many others of us, were part of that subculture that moved in and stayed – raising families, buying land, becoming part of the community.
One of the beautiful things about photography is the opportunity it offers to revisit those earlier times and places – to see precisely how people and locales have changed, and how they haven’t. At the wedding reception, I was struck by this anomaly as Lionell glided his daughter through the traditional dance, laughing, talking, holding her tight. It was the same relaxed, protective grip as years ago, but instead of holding a four-month old infant, this time he was holding the confident, secure, radiant adult his grip helped produce.