“Cherish and utilise every moment”: Tristan Buckland’s Fragments is a poignant reflection on a difficult time in his life
The Bath-based multidisciplinary creative produced the moving work during his mother’s illness.
- Ruby Boddington
- 28 April 2020
A few years back, when he was in his early 20s, Tristan Buckland was much like any other student in London. On the graphic and media design course at London College of Communication, he was “living away from home for the first time and finding my way, learning to cook and being truly independent, while skateboarding a lot in my free time.” In his final year of university, however, that all changed: “My mum was diagnosed with bulbar neuron disease, a rare strain of the motor neuron disease, and life as I knew it was shattered before me like a vase.”
After graduating, Tristan returned home to care for his mother and be together with her during the difficult and horrifying time. “I didn’t truly understand what this would entail. But I quickly realised that my life as I knew it had been put on hold, my aspirations, my goals, my career opportunities didn’t matter,” he recalls. What this meant, was that at the age of 23, Tristan’s days were now focussed around “administering foods and medicine, organising hospital visits and more generally providing assistance in and around the house.” On top of all this, he was, of course, trying to “create new memories and have quality time as mother and son.”
With only his 77-year-old grandmother’s assistance, time on his own became scarce, and understandably he was struggling with creative block. In any free time he did have, however, Tristan found himself drawn towards the camera he inherited from his grandfather and thus began a cathartic and reflective process which saw him wandering the streets of Bath, or the city’s surrounding countryside, taking photographs as he went. This endless meandering has now culminated in Fragments, a beautiful mediation on such a difficult time in Tristan’s life, and an ode to his mother, who sadly passed in 2019.
A book, which is dedicated to his mother, Fragments is a chronological documentation of the photographs Tristan took from the first six months of his mother’s diagnosis to the first six months after her death. But, as he astutely points out, “it’s slightly more than that.” It’s a window into the world as he experienced it during that time: “I believe through my work I’m inviting the viewers into the highs and lows, the pleasure and pain of this journey. The life-changing experience.” Throughout, he allows us into what the world was like for him; the things he was drawn to. Often times, it’s a poised hand, a reflection in a window – isolated minutiae of everyday life which take on a whole new meaning. There’s a solemnity to the work and Tristan adeptly utilises accents of colour and composition.
GalleryTristan Buckland: Fragments
“When I started Fragments, my creative practice was little more than just an opportunity to get out of the house,” he recalls. “Depending on how I felt on that day and how much time I had would determine what kind of world I wanted to be in.” As he became more and more absorbed in the project, however, he turned to his grandfather’s photography books, “taking reference from the masters of their times, sparking new ideas and applying it to my own practice.” In turn, the images have a poised and classical quality to them – there’s a consideration and thought in every frame.
For Tristan, creativity and how to channel it knows no bounds and so he works with photography, collage and even some oil painting. Working in “whichever media I feel compelled to,” Tristan often juggles several projects at once, allowing them to inform on another. “I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands which is why I don’t always jump to a computer, even for graphic design. Which is why since moving home I’ve also started painting in oil. And now I never hesitate to pick up a paintbrush and spend a day in a studio painting, or collaging, or designing.” This notion is channelled through the design of Fragments in which every image remains at a 6x4-inch ratio, allowing them to be perceived as if they are prints on a table.
Tristan also harbours an appreciation for “rejects”, particularly within his photographic practice: “[They] can sometimes hold some of the most exciting possibilities, for instance, in my book I talk about a very profound trip to Lake Como in the midst of this challenging time. Unfortunately, none of those photographs made it into the final cut of my book, due to my camera breaking on the trip and many of the negatives being ruined. So, I felt compelled to paint them and in turn, this became a painting series of Lake Como.” In other instances, rejected photos form the basis of collages, or they “make their way into a design brief or idea that could also lead to a painting or another media.”
Now living his family home in Bath with his younger sister after inheriting the house, Tristan hopes the project reminds viewers to “cherish and utilise every moment you have with your loved ones, do the things you talk about one day doing. Tell them you love them and make the most of what you have now, because everything can change, and change is inevitable. For better or worse.” He also wishes for it to bring hope to anyone in a difficult time.
With an impressively positive outlook on such a difficult experience, Tristan is excited about where the project will go next. He’s in contact a printer to do a limited run of 100 copies of the book and has been discussing a book launch and an exhibition of the works at a gallery in Bath called Room 34. “Alongside that, I’m continuing to use my studio and develop my creative practice with talks of another exhibition in the coming months,” he says, concluding: “I’m excited for my photographic language to mature in new environments, cities, and landscapes with this new perception on life. I know that this is only the beginning of my creative career. I owe myself this time to now pursue my creative dreams and aspirations.”
GalleryTristan Buckland: Fragments
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.