I first met Vivian when her son joined my kindergarten class. The two of them had just started a new life in Australia. Despite speaking almost no English, her son quickly made friends. He was a happy-go-lucky boy, always smiling, and was a pleasure to teach.
A few years later, he became seriously ill. But he was still his happy self each time I visited him in hospital, even in the isolation room when I could only wave to him from behind a pane of glass. Another time I visited, I remember him laughing and skipping ahead of us down the hospital corridor. I had no idea that this would become my last and most poignant memory of him. He really had no idea how sick he was, and that was both incredibly sad and beautiful.
It was heartbreaking to see such a tiny coffin at the funeral. A group of kids from school were sitting around it at the front of the room with their parents. Witnessing his mother’s deep grief as she read a poem she’d written was gut-wrenching.
A while after, the hospital announced a fundraising exhibition and I asked Vivian if I could photograph her for it. The theme was GOLD. Gold is one of the most malleable metals ~ meaning it can be hammered into different shapes without cracking or breaking. Vivian’s unique combination of softness and strength made her a perfect subject. After losing her child to Leukemia, instead of letting loss and deep grief destroy her, she managed some kind of alchemic transformation.
The hospital considered this image too dark in mood for their exhibition, so I ended up showing a different image. But I liked this one with the gold dust emanating from her the best.