On April 20th, 2008, a man in Croatia died. As part of his post-mortem legacy, he saved the lives of two individuals in Belgium—my daughter’s and Freddy’s. Ten years after their liver transplants, through this strange fate of a shared organ, they met one another for the first time—Ceydie aged 13 and Freddy aged 75—Freddy agreeably; my daughter with pubescent protest.
Aside from an image of this brief meeting, this project is a visual portrait that separately documents the lives of Ceydie (now living in Canada) and Freddy ten years post-transplant. Their combined stories represent the symbolic act of piecing the donor liver back together and paying homage to this unknown man in Croatia. The personal narrative of my daughter is a series of images fraught with layers of emotional gestures as part of a dialogue between her and I. In the process of establishing her own voice, she embraces and pushes me away through motions of distance, outright annoyance, and eventual playful collaboration while I deal with the loss of her childhood, her moments of rejection and my own fears surrounding her health. Photographing Freddy, a total stranger, proved to be another type of confrontation—one of aging within the spectrum of a regimented routine in the shrinking world of post-work life. In his words, “Retirement is a punishment.” His is a story also marked by echoes of betrayal when two members of his family left him for dead on his post-transplant bed ten years prior. While my daughter had rules—a photo a day (not retroactive), and sometimes only a body part—Freddy was completely open to the microscope of my camera in our short time together.
I hope this project will also encourage people to contemplate the process of organ transplants, their position in this process, and the broader ramifications of their government’s current deceased organ donor policy.
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