My Nana’s Name is Evelyn — Photographer Will Harris

Evelyn — Project Statement

We all have places that we know well, but have been absent from our minds for a long period of time. We remember these places how they were. In some cases they no longer exist or aren’t how we remember them all. There is something about the remnants of a place that lingers with you. The memories are still there, but the reality is sometimes a little haunting because the time that passes in our minds is seemingly pristine. In actuality, these past experiences and the images of these places are vastly different then what we remember. I want to explore objects or places that were significant in people’s lives but now are left behind and abandoned. To achieve this I have gone back to a very familiar place to me and close to my heart, the home of my Nana. I spent a good portion of my childhood in my Nana’s home. The three-story twin house, which she lived for forty-five years, seemed like a castle to me when I was younger. It was a labyrinth of old objects and smells. Now, after years of being away, and Nana no longer there, I come to this place with a heavy memory, an eerie memory of what it once was. While the outside world moved on, my Nana’s house stood still. The house shows its age, but regardless of the weakened condition, the memories inside remain potent.

Will Harris’ series of photographs in the project ‘Evelyn’ pertains to his Nana (his maternal grandmother). She no longer lives in the home, and the house at time of making the series had been abandoned for quite some time (10 years or so). The ‘Evelyn’ series evokes a sense of melancholy that one cannot help but ask more questions than those answered: What happened here? What happened to Evelyn? How do we ultimately remember the people we love, and what do they mean to us?

“She means a lot to me. I don’t know if words could do my feelings justice. I have the fondest memories of spending time with her in the house. Describing what the series means to me is much easier. It’s my attempt at the encapsulation of my memories but not only mine but my mothers as well, she moved into that house as small child. Through conversations with her I learned a lot about my family history. It also meant a lot to me to take these images as a form of preservation. Nothing about the house was pristine at the time of making these images but for me it was a honest look at reality of the situation.”

“The work is not so much about the person though as it is about the space and the memories I had of it as a child, as well as the memories from the past it contains. Those memories don’t belong to just me: the house has been in my family for 60 years or so, my grandmother lived in it with many people — and for quite some time, also by herself.”

When artists make work about memories and loss — it is as much about the process of remembering as it is about loss itself. The late B. B. King talked about the old misguided musical adage of “The blues is about feeling sad”. He would shake his head back and forth with closed eyes, and preach that the blues is about the joy of living. Not unlike the blues, photography and visual work that strikes a chord of melancholy or nostalgia have both bitterness and sweetness to be embraced.


Will Harris is a photographer based in Philadelphia, Penn. To view his website and see more work by Harris, visit http://www.willharrisphoto.com/ or you can visit his tumblr site at http://sirrahlliw.tumblr.com/

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