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Jimmy A Still Life

Gina Washington | Ohio, United States

My daughter Matilda Washington and her Great-grandfather Jimmy at Lake Erie with our dog Kelly in 2011.


I was a caregiver for my grandfather for many years until his death at the age of 99. My grandfather had lived with COPD most of my life and after he turned 94 had a stroke that eventually left him partially paralyzed. As a working single mother in the non-profit art sector I had little financial resources and simultaneously cared for my great-aunt until her death in another home. Through those years I sat in the center of what the hospital thought possible for my grandfather, what his doctor believed I could do in the long run, what the Medicaid system wanted to handle during his life and what they tried to take after his death. I remained constant in my belief of what I thought best for someone that did his best for me. This documents his strength and his connection to family, without which he would have perished in a nursing home before his time. My purpose is in showing what is possible in what seems like the darkest of times.

Photographer: Gina Washington

Subject: James E. Williams (1914-2014)

Child: Matilda Washington


University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio

McGregor Home in Cleveland, Ohio

Jimmy (A still life)

I have explored the world of fairytales and childhood sayings to examine the notions of female identity and power. Jimmy – A Still Life, is transference of that exploration to happenings of a more personal nature that includes fear, death and life within the construct of identity and societal norms. Richard Avedon was my inspiration for confronting death, this time with a tool. I have watched my mother, grandmother older sister and father die and have never been more intent on documentation. It is my nature to move in close to a subject, to invade its space and uncover beauty. This time I was purposeful for many reasons. I wanted to create memories for my daughter, make art while existing as a caregiver closed off from the world, explore the changes in the face and body and somehow prepare myself for the end. You never know what you look like until you see yourself through the eyes of someone else. I saw Jimmy, my grandfather as someone that cared for me and needed all I could give not through the eyes of people that broke him down into a demographic and made clear their expectations when they uttered the words  ‘Well he is 99.” I want the viewer to connect beyond the demographic/stereotypical label and confront the fear in death and the fear associated with living sick. In the end it is not about money or time but the right way, within your boundaries, to live with compassion.

Gina Washington

456 Eddy Rd 

Cleveland, OH




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