Tulip: Quiet Images of a Mother's Struggle with Cancer

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Most of the photographs featured in the book were taken at her mother’s home. Whilst studying for her MA in Photojournalism at the London College of Communication, Marchbank was also a full-time carer.
There are subtle motifs in many of the images, namely the striped decor of the interiors, the luminous blue aluminium tray, Frank, the ginger cat, half drunk cups of milky tea.
“She hated tea,” says Marchbank. “I’d always ask if she wanted a cup and she’d say ‘Oh, I’ll have half a cup’. She’d always make an effort to drink it with me and then put it back. So there are quite a few pictures there of half drunk cups of tea.
“It’s funny, I never used to drink coffee and she was a massive coffee fan,” says Marchbank sipping on a cappuccino. “It’s only since she died that I’ve started drinking coffee.”

Marchbank explains the project started as a blog that she wrote to help her come to terms with what was going on.
It was the first time she had published anything, let alone something so incredibly personal. Many of her recordings now provide evocative captions for some of the less-obvious compositions.
One caption accompanying an image of a large brown stain of spilt coffee on white bed sheets reveals that the photographer was ashamed to capture this moment.

“I suppose it was because I was showing her vulnerability,” says Marchbank. “She was annoyed and went out to get a cloth. Really, I should have gone to get the cloth and clean it and let her sit there, but instead I took a picture. I felt like the project was becoming more important than looking after her, and it made me feel uncomfortable.”

Marchbank’s mother passed away in October 2010. One of the final pages shows an obituary written about the esteemed ex-chef in The Guardian. The caption reads, ‘Breakfast with mum’.
“My brother’s Brylcreem is in the corner!” says Marchbank. “I suppose I should have taken that out but I don’t set up my shots. I don’t like that.”
Marchbank’s mother never saw the photographs documenting that year. Indeed, it was only last year that the photographer felt ready to share the series with the broader public after five years of grieving.
You go from feeling like a really small child to an adult, you feel like you have to grow up,” says the photographer. 
There’s one on my bookshelf at home. It is quite strange looking over and seeing your name there,”Marchbank smiles. “My mum would have liked it.”
Published by Dewi Lewis, the book cloth-bound book is available to buy online here.

Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.