Fragility – Barbara Burry

 Posted by on November 1, 2011  Add comments
Nov 012011
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“Say not the struggle naught availeth,

The labour and the wounds are vain,

The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as things have been, things remain


And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In from the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright”


From – Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth – by Arthur Hugh Clough 1819-1861


At a photography workshop in early 2009, I found myself in a very dark place & my images were also dark & gloomy. After a lung transplant, a close relative remained in intensive care in a coma for two weeks. It was very difficult to shake off the black feeling. Knowing my, & my family’s, trauma, the workshop tutors were amazingly supportive & when the time came to create images for a set subject I was given the title “Sea of Tranquillity”. They wanted to pull me out of the black mood & into the light. Within 36 hours, after a number of false starts, I created an audiovisual of a series of feathers which were littering the area having fallen from the pet geese which were wandering round the grounds.

The tears were rolling down my cheeks while I was making these images & thinking of my relative. When I had finished photographing these feathers, I had risen above the pain & felt that I had created a series of images representing not only the fragility & transient nature of life, but also our ability to survive. And my relative survived. A week after waking from the coma, while still in intensive care & wired & intubated, he was able to play the audiovisual on the computer on his own. As I watched him perform, I was once again crying. After a troubled & long recovery period, he is now living life better than he has for many years.

This one image of a feather for me represents both fragility & survival. Whenever I look at it I remember the help & support of my colleagues & friends & the strength within us all to keep going & never give up.

This feather suggests a tranquil moment in life when one stops & feels … & … just… is

Life is fragile. In Christchurch during 2011 we have been reminded of that fragility by the ongoing earthquakes. But our community are survivors. We don’t just float away like a fragile feather in the wind. We stay & stand strong.

Kia Kaha

Barbara Burry

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  15 Responses to “Fragility – Barbara Burry”

  1. On behalf of us all in aGathering, thank you Barbara for sharing this love image and story with us it really reinforces why we all make images.

  2. I had heard that this story could bring a tear to the eye of a big tough scotsman, but I thought that I’d be immune since I know the details…. Im not immune. Wonderful Barbara. Thankyou

    • Thank you Ian. The feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel if we just keep going stays with me all the time – and at least every time I look at my computer (this image is my screen saver) I feel uplifted to remember the magic of survival

  3. Very moving – and after looking at the aGathering site – what a wonderful idea for a group. It would appear you have deep souls and a need to express and share – lovely

  4. I was extremely moved by your beautiful work and words. I can say photography too has been my saviour during a very dark time in my life.Thanks Barbara:)

  5. I am the lucky guy who gets to call Barbara my step-mum and who also has a second chance at life. The feather video is one of my strong memories post coma and we are lucky to have a set of the images at home. To me, the feather represents vulnerability and the fact that it has little chance of survival by itself; just as I had before many people played their part to give me another chance. For a feather is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing structure, yet fundamentally useless by itself. Together with other feathers it achieves extraordinary things, giving a bird vibrant colours, warmth and the possibility of flight.

  6. Thank you Barbara and Michael for sharing so much.

  7. Barbara, thank you for sharing your work, your stories and very insightful and uplifting comments on this site. Your presence has added another dimension to what we do and how we see things. Reading your story and Michael’s comments makes me so glad that you’ve been able to make a difference in the lives of people around you with your work. I think we all would envy that. The more important thing for me is appreciating that it is a truth that comes from the heart and not a contrived attempt to connect. Inspirational thank you.

  8. So moving, thank you Barbara. photography can have power beyong imagining.

  9. Having been a participant at that specific photography workshop with Barbara, I know how special that time was and the long lasting effects it ended up having on many of us. Every now and then when I thought about that magical time and the people that I met and heard about, I was wondering about Barbara’s stepson. And having not heard how Michael was since a few months after this workshop ended, I am extremely happy to read that you are doing well.
    Being a physician myself, I see all the time how short a life can be. One realizes the real important things in life are not the material stuff but the connections/relationships that one makes with other beings and the universe.

  10. Your words are very powerful. Thank you for sharing your intimate thoughts.I feel honoured.

  11. Such a beautiful image

  12. Beautifully told in both your words and your images, Barbara. Thanks for sharing!

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