The Ghost of You
A mixed media photography exhibition
Michelle Ward

I am a passionate photographic explorer who is captivated by the untold stories hidden within abandoned farm homes, found portraits and objects. My canvas is rural Ontario and I feel compelled to photograph these sacred spaces before they are gone forever.

My examination of what has been left behind is a conduit to help me explore my own feelings regarding the concepts of loss, abandonment and the passage of time. I am attempting to understand and link the grounded physical world we occupy with the emotional & spiritual world that lends meaning to most everything we encounter. Each property, object and portrait that I explore has a tale to tell that has been lost generationally. I want to re-write these broken stories and create a new narrative for the viewer’s imagination to follow.

I have been collecting vintage historical family portraits & small artifacts for over 20 years and it was only recently that I discovered the reason why. I have to thank my Mother-in-Law Carol for igniting the idea for the project as one day while discussing my other work Forgotten Farms, she looked at me and said “Yes Michelle, but I wonder about the Forgotten Families”. This comment sparked an incredible fire within me as suddenly I could visualize a clear connection between the abandoned properties, the portraits and the objects that I have been collecting for so long.

This exhibition is not meant to be a historically accurate. The goal was to weave a rural fairytale, where locally sourced elements would combine to create a snapshot of a time that once existed long ago. My hope is that people come to the exhibition and leave feeling some kind of emotional connection to the work. It would be wonderful if The Ghost of You ended up asking more questions than it answers. Ultimately I would consider the project successful if this is the outcome!

We found this poem in the 1880 farmhouse that my husband and I lovingly restored and live in now. It was left behind by the previous owners and it has become one of my favorite pieces of writing. I find it to be a poignant reminder of what really is important and I hope that the show captures in part, the messaging of the poem.

The Country Boy

What need had you of money, my boy
Or the presents money can bring
When every breath was a breath of joy?

You owned the whole world with its hills and trees
The sun and the clouds and the bracing breeze
And your hands to work with, having these
You were richer than any King

Permissions: Excerpt The Country Boy – Lucy Larcom. The Poetical Works of Lucy Larcom, Houghton, Mifflin & Co, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Boston, and New York, 1884. The Copyright in this publication is in the public domain.