Reflections on Absent Presence

Miranda Hutton’s photographs cause one to stop – not just to look, but also to pause in thought as one takes in the emotions held suspended in the different bedrooms depicted. There is a sense that tightly held feelings are caught in the neatly made beds, the overflowing cupboards, and the postcards and sketches tacked onto the walls. These details beckon us to connect with the private sphere of each bedroom as we begin to imagine the flickering presence of the person who inhabits the space.

We are drawn in, but also held. It slowly becomes apparent that these are not lived-in spaces, but rather museums of a life once lived. The deceased children who used to inhabit them are kept alive through their rooms, preserved as they were at point of death. As we gaze into the heart of these private familial domains, there is a sense that we are invited, not to recoil in terror at their loss, but to honour this proud form of commemoration and get to know the person who lived there. The living and the dead are held entwined in their own self-reflection.

Bright light streams in from the windows and casts its luminosity over the gathered objects. This light invites a sense of movement and of hope; of a future that will carry the memory of those who are absent with it. The photographs form part of this medium of commemoration, extending the person to others. They are a document of the ways in which people recall, commemorate and remember, and a means by which we may reflect, beyond the confines of rooms and objects, on the absent presence of those we have lost.