I visited and photographed Pauline in her small but immaculate Council ﬂat in Auckland. Living with advanced cancer, out of touch with her extended family and struggling to cope with troublesome neighbours, it felt like she couldn’t cut a break. She’d told me in advance the person who ﬁlled her life with most joy and strength (and thus the obvious subject to be photographed with) was her son Shannon. A larger than life young man that she’d raised on her own and lived her life for, he’d announced when he was of age he wanted to move to Australia to ‘ﬁnd his fortune’.
She was bereft, but struggled on – through changing homes and her worsening illness. Then Shannon announced he was making a work trip back to NZ… to Taupo… but “just secretly Mum, I’m going to come home to you, for good”. But in Taupo, before heading on up to Auckland to see her, he died of a massive heart attack. The photograph she’d wanted was holding a photo of Shannon – one of many strategically placed around her unit. Shannon wasn’t really gone – he was living with her again and that gives her all the strength she needs.