(a continuation from last week’s post)
With my work, because of my participants’ histories as care-leavers, I felt that to confuse my subjects’ identities as Parker does would be an act of condescension and betrayal. In an attempt to show each of my subjects as living people and to also keep the reader fully informed upfront as to what they are reading, I begin each story with a short introductory passage about the subject, and follow this with a photo of that subject which was taken by me with the subject’s permission at the time of interviewing, for use in my work.
As children, most Forgotten Australians were dehumanised and stripped of their identity. Often their names were changed by those in charge, and most of these people’s childhood records were either lost, or destroyed by the authorities. Rarely do these people have photos from their childhood. Very few photos were taken, but, quite often, any extant photos were destroyed by care-leavers themselves. Many care-leavers experience flash-backs and horror in seeing images of themselves as children in care. In the main, all these people have to show that they existed as children are their memories.
In my book, hopefully this double act of introduction and photo serves to show the subjects as people who actually exist, and helps the reader feel that they are meeting them, and refers the reader back to the text and the subjects’ stories and what they have to say. Having said that in my work of literary docu-memoir I do not confuse the subjects’ identities, I hasten to add that I do change names in a subject’s story if specifically asked to do so by that subject. In this case I inform the reader as to what I have done upfront in the introduction to the subject’s story. For instance, in keeping with M–’s wish to not be so openly identified, I begin his story with this introduction:
For reasons of his own, M– has asked that I not use his real surname or the real names of his family in this work. I will call him M– ‘R–’[…]
In their photos to their stories, all the subjects except M– look directly into the camera. With M–, in keeping with his desire to close the book on his past and “drive away” from it once he had told his story, I took his picture from the back as he literary drove away, and before I inserted it into the work I blurred the number plate on his motor bike so that, in the work, he could not be identified by name through that.