My grandfather’s faces

It’s been a while since I posted any pictures from my grandfather’s house. Here are some from last August I have only just gotten around to sorting through. My grandfather is a man who has loved and treasured beautiful things all of his life. He is a collector, and he has been fortunate to have the means to surround himself with beauty. When we are young we try so hard to distance ourselves from our roots; to assert our independence and turn our faces outwards, fiercely, towards the future we want so badly to carve out for ourselves. But as we get older we realise that the past has so much more to teach us, and looking back is not to be dismissed as shameful, or wallowing in nostalgia. After all, how can we really know ourselves without understanding where we come from?

I have always loved things. Trinkets, treasures, knick knacks. When I was small I made collections of marbles and rubbers and dolls – all sorts. I would line them up and categorise them obsessively. I began to understand, as I grew up, that I lived in a family that valued things. I didn’t appreciate that for a long while, but when I began to emerge from the secluded oyster of my world I saw that it was not so in every household, and now I find it is important for me to make my home a place where things are allowed exist, and not obsessively tidied away. I enjoy the gentle chaos of a home life which I grew up with, where there is comfort in the incongruity of mismatched objects, each of which holds meaning for us as a family in some way, and which live happily, haphazardly, side by side.

Many peculiar faces haunt my grandfather’s world. I’m sure he barely notices them now, but when I go there the wonder of a child froths up inside me as if I am seeing these things for the first time. And as time ticks on slowly, inevitably, they seem to want to tell his story more urgently to me.

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night:
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls ensilvered o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Shakespeare, sonnet number 12

clock face


Cherub boy

horse head

Chinese lady

Broken statue

Winged archer_edited-1

Ivory girl


You can find out more about my grandfather’s house in previous posts on my blog here and here, and here.

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

21 Comments on “My grandfather’s faces

  1. A beautiful set of portraits with so much life, vitality and intensity in the faces of these objects. And your grandfather, sitting in the dappled light of a long life with so many stories to tell . . .

  2. Glimpses (SharonZ) is a beautiful word; brief and clear. A beautiful picture of your grandfather is the bow that wraps it up.

  3. I always love these images from your grandfathers, Emily. I think there is a difference between enjoying and absorbing our personal and wider histories, and nostalgia (although I’m rather fond of nostalgic thinking from time to time 🙂 ) We sound like very similar children! I too used to collect and obsessively arrange all my belongings, I still have a book of charts that I designed to tick them all off, hehe..This is a beautiful collection of images, you will cherish them more and more as times goes by I’m sure. When my Gran passed away I felt that I had not only lost a wonderful friend, but also a link to a generation somehow..

    • thanks Cath – yes you are right about the difference between nostalgia and history, I think that’s an important distinction. My grandfather is still going strong, so hopefully there will be more images to come! I’d like to put them in a book one day.

  4. Oh my, I’ve been out of touch recently, but pleased to visit and find several new posts, all of great, quiet, beauty. This is so very lovely.

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