About the Photographer
American, b. 1967
Each speaking from our own perspective, we began [a] dialog… Bert's captions create a new context for my photographs, while some correspond to the thinking that shaped the image, others interpret the image in a different way, thereby adding a critical second perspective to this work.
KayLynn Deveney met her subject, Albert Hastings, in 2001 when she and her husband were living in southern Wales. Hastings was their neighbor, and Deveney noticed him outside his apartment watering his garden, going to the grocery store, and sometimes just watching the activity on the street. With his permission Deveney began photographing his daily routines and eventually had him respond to each picture by captioning the images she had pasted in a small notebook. The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings, as the series is titled, touches on themes of domesticity, aging and solitude, but Deveney explores these ideas as they unfold specifically in Albert's life without searching for generalization. In part, the off-beat activities among Albert's routines, such as sunbathing in the parking lot outside of his home, help to prevent him from becoming an emblematic figure, standing in for all elderly people. By and large, though, it is the combination of Albert's captions and Deveney's photographs that give the series its complexity, as well as its warmth and intimacy. The perspectives of photographer and subject intertwine: Albert's commentary adds depth to the narrative suggested by Deveney's images or in some instances he provides an idiosyncratic interpretation of what is depicted.
Throughout its history photography has been used to make portraits of friends and family members, and as the documentary tradition evolved photographers began using extended series of images to work towards a more nuanced depiction of a person or a group. Although photographs were initially thought to convey a portrait sitter's inner character, photographers have increasingly questioned the medium's ability to provide a clear understanding of an individual. Not surprisingly, documentary practice has come to be understood as at least partially subjective, reflecting the individual photographer's perspective. By the late 1960s photographers such as Danny Lyon and Bill Owens at times supplemented the narrative created through their images with statements or commentary by the people they photographed, whether as captions or as an associated text in books of their work. Deveney adopts this kind of approach in The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings, but she gives Albert a more central role than most photographers have allowed their subjects previously. Albert had an opportunity to influence the narrative and tone of the project, if only retroactively, by systematically captioning every image. Deveney, by including the captions written in Albert's own hand, also gave up the ability to edit or shape the text. This series traces a thoughtful dialog between photographer and subject, but notably it also provides fertile ground on which to consider the complicated, unresolved relationship between a photograph and its caption—or between images and language more generally.
KayLynn Deveney received her BA in journalism from the University of New Mexico (1989) and holds an MA in documentary photography from the University of Wales (2000) where she is currently pursuing a practice-based Ph.D. in photography. Albert Hastings passed away in February, 2007 at the age of ninety-one.