A paternal passion, photography was instilled in London-based photographer Jai Toor at a young age. He tells us: “What got me into photography was my father, he’s a great photographer.” A prolific archiver, Jai’s father kept “old contact sheets from the 80s and early 90s” which Jai discovered during his A-levels. He “instantly fell in love with the medium” from both an aesthetic and investigatory frame of mind. “I enjoyed looking through old slides and figuring out who is who while piecing scenes together,” he continues. “I guess you could say it was almost like a personal investigation.”
It was through this new clarity that Jai learnt that “photography is more than just a picture,” in fact “it has the ability to capture memories and decisive moments within history than can be personal to you or someone else later down the line.” This sentiment can still be found at the core of Jai’s practice. As a “visual story-teller,” he uses his own work and research alongside archival imagery to “bring to light authentic stories around interesting people while evoking a sense of emotion and memory.” This line of enquiry, along with Jai’s fascination for “the fact that they proceed in everyday life together as one” drew him to look towards his grandparents, culminating in his latest series.
Yet Another Day considers the lives of Jai’s grandparents, acting as “an opportunity to get to know them and their story a little better,” as well as an investigation into family and routine. “Although I lived in the same house as my grandparents, it felt as if our lives were not intertwined,” Jai tells us. His grandparents moved to England in 1961, after growing up on a farm in India, and have lived in west London for the last 40 years. “Not only was moving to London a big cultural change but here they had four kids to look after as well as me in my teenage years.”
Jai was born in London but grew up in Mumbai, returning to London for high school. “It’s funny,” he tells us “this project is almost a continuation of a project I started at university in 2017 which was an investigation into myself and my feelings about returning to the UK.” During this time, he discovered how his grandparents still work full time whilst dealing with “major health conditions and severe family issues.” Jai explains that this tumultuous lifestyle and routine intrigued and “amused” him, especially how harmoniously the pair lived together – “what surprised me is that both my grandpa and grandma went to work together, it was a delight to see.” Jai continues: “What I found amusing but also absurd was how a couple around the age of 80 could wake up at five in the morning and go to work and do this five days a week.”
Finding a poignant contrast between “the workplace and home” was where Jai started his study, “making lots of lists, mainly about where they go, what they do, what’s routine, what’s not routine.” All this alongside consulting the “family archives” for ephemera related to his grandparent’s story, especially in relation to “their lifestyle today.”
Jai also explains his admiration for Larry Sultan, specifically his project Picture from Home: “I like how he uses a mixture of movie stills alongside shot imagery of his family to construct a story about his own personal American Dream.” For Jai, the imagery he has collected from his family, similar to Larry, seems cinematic and important in helping to tell the story of his grandparents.
From here, Jai began to photograph his grandparents, who were “quite intrigued” by the sound of his project. “When it came to pointing the lens at them I thought it was going to go horribly because I had never taken pictures of family and I didn’t want it to seem forced,” Jai recalls. “However, I began making imagery and as time passed they became quite ignorant to me and the camera for the most part.”
The results are a beautiful and quiet look into domestic life that capture the fluttering contentment of routine. Jai’s portraits seem to convey more truth of the story than a candid photograph would, and allow us into the house of his grandparents, becoming witnesses of their routine. We are made vulnerable to the juxtaposition of happiness and anxiety in family life. “I think watching loved ones interact with each other is special but to have done it for over 60 years is even more extraordinary, and because of this, I see no need to put the project to a halt,” Jai explains. “Documenting them is quite fun and engaging – almost second nature. There will definitely be something new to say in the years to come.”
The project seemed mutually amusing to both Jai and his grandparents, and they became interested when he started to use medium format. They were “shocked that these cameras still exist,” Jai tells us, and he enjoyed teaching them how he was operating the camera. “These photos taught me a lot about love, fighting your demons, living a healthy lifestyle but also taking every day as it comes,” Jai reveals, saying that this considered mindset is something that his grandparents have forever “lived by without actually knowing it.”
GalleryJai Toor: Yet Another Day
About the Author
Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.