A Story Behind A Photograph by Valentin Schörghuber

Eleventh in the series of commissions for Develop at Home - a digital programme of articles, interviews and resources to help us stay connected, inspired and informed at this time - Valentin Schörghuber sharing a story behind his photograph Grandmother Gertrude.

Imagine a place in this world where you feel the most loved and taken care of. To me, this was at my grandmother´s.

Grandmother Gertrude is part of my ongoing series which explores the process of growing up by asking the question “When do we ever stop growing up?” To answer this question, I began photographing people in my close environment at different stages of their lives.

My grandmother has always impressed me. She started her own business when her husband passed away. She was the first in our family to get a computer and after retiring she even started to learn English. She is now 72 years old.

Growing up without a father she took care of me whenever my mother had to work. My grandmother lives near the forest in a meticulously looked after flat. There is a lot of maple wood furniture, a white carpeted floor, a vinyl record player hooked up to a stereo. The balcony door is always open, and you can hear birds chirping outside. 

Grandmother Gertrude was taken at the end of our first shoot together in which I captured my grandmother with her boyfriend. After putting down my camera, we had coffee and chatted a bit. She told me that she had just moved a small plant sprout into a larger pot because its growing so fast. We went on the balcony and she showed me the plant. I asked if I could have it, but she told me it was not ready yet. As she sat there holding the plant offspring in her hands, I knew I had to take a picture. Like most of my work the photo was taken on medium format film. I took this photograph pre Covid-19 and since then it has grown a new meaning.

A few weeks ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumour which meant she need to have surgery. She is now in recovery. I try to talk to her and visit her as much as I can. My grandmother is an incredible woman, and I am so grateful and happy to have her in my life.

When do we ever stop growing up? It is very difficult to say but I discovered that photography gives me the opportunity to further examine this process. One thing is safe to say though, just like the plant sprout in my image, as long as you are alive you will not stop growing. I hope this photograph inspires you to pay closer attention to your family and maybe, if you have not spoken to them lately, give them a call.

- Valentin Schörghuber