Daniel Terna‘s photographs from ‘My First Wife Stella’ are part of a still and moving image project, a reflection and reinvention of a journey that happened over 40 years ago when his father, and his wife, took off on a road trip along Route 1, a north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of California for nearly 700 miles. A road known for its scenery and made famous by the Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Having found a series of Kodachrome colour slides, that this father took on their holiday, Terna was inspired to retrace some of the journey taking photographs, shooting film and producing work of fellow travellers, musicians, school teachers and marijuana trimmers he met along the way. It’s a beautiful and touching story that seeks to rekindle the living spirit of a woman who died before he was born, someone he only knows through his fathers stories, the pictures taken and odds and ends one picks up along the way.
Like many stories from the past these photographs are fragmented. We see people playing music, eating fruit, a forest path, a child playing on an outdoor BBQ, a man pointing a gun at the camera. All arbitrary. All moments of a present that seek to remind us of a particular past.
These photographs are a bridge into a family story, a history that Terna is determined to resuscitate, revive and make sure that it remains alive. That it doesn’t dissipate into the mists of time. It’s both an intimate portrait of a family and a reminder to us all that our own stories make us who we are. We are all rooted in our family history. We stand on the shoulders of our forefathers. We would do well to remember that. Take cognisance of what Terna has achieved in this wonderful project. Here’s what he has to say about the series:
Both my father and Stella survived the Holocaust. The project addresses our puzzling family archives, Holocaust survivors and subsequent generations, what we look for as tourists, and young liberal idealists searching for footing during a recession. Stella was bipolar, suffered from severe manic depression, and towards the end of their marriage in 1975, was hospitalized almost constantly. My father married my mother in 1982. Stella and my father maintained an amicable relationship until the end of her life in 1983, when she died of cancer.
Check out this video from the project. It’s poignant, deeply honest and moving.