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Had Your Chance, Muffed it

by Elle Dean

Elle's project​ is an autoethnographic photo-poetic exploration of the personal and familial intersections between embodiment and identity. It is also a beautiful reflection on the gulf that may exist between intention and execution of an idea, and demonstrates the means by which we might harness the creative potential of 'failure' in order to bridge the gap between what we had planned and what we might make. 

As Elle writes,

When I initially wrote ‘had your chance, muffed it’, I had a very different project in mind. My intent was to take photographs of people I love with a disposable camera, capturing the little imperfections on their bodies that made them beautiful and told their stories. I wanted to capture that sense of hauntology that lingers in relics of the past; that sense of what could have been and what is left behind of those lost possibilities.


However, my camera had other ideas.


When I had the roll developed, every single picture was blurry and unclear. You couldn’t see the definition on the models that had been the centrepiece of my idea. How could I convey that the body is poetry in itself when you couldn’t read the lines? I cried for ages, wondering just what I was supposed to do next when I realised I’d just have to work with it.


Suffering from OCD, I do not cope well when my plans do not work. I need to have every aspect of my life planned in minute detail to feel safe, and changing the project entirely through no fault of my own felt like free falling without a parachute. I wrote each poem based around the person I’d photographed, collaging the photos with old pictures of them, paintings and poems. I used their names as the titles because they themselves were the poems. However, rather than the journey of their life being etched into their skin, it was just an unclear blur of fragments and bone.


‘had your chance, muffed it’ is a piece about mortality. It is a piece that recognises how fragile and insignificant life is, and how that makes it all the more significant to us while we have it. One of the subjects of the piece, my grandfather Brian, passed away the day before I wrote this introductory piece. Since I got the news I’ve kept looking at photos of him and struggling to contextualise them; he looks so alive, he WAS so alive, and now he is dead. Soon all I will have are these pictures and blurry memories of our time together. But the love I feel for him and the span of his brief, long life will always remain in me, and on the pages of the scrapbook you see before you. That, I believe, is what ‘had your chance’ was all about in the end: reading those short, nonsensical words about people you only knew for a moment, but feeling the impact of their existence with your whole body and soul. 


We’re here and we’re gone and in that we mean nothing. But in the millisecond between, we are everything and that is the most wonderful thing I can think of. Love wholly, unconditionally, and embrace the fuck ups around you. That’s the best bit of this whole crazy thing. 

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