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Tom Hull captures the interesting everyday in Ruth and Bill at home, Saltdean

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Tom Hull’s photograph of his grandparents is part of his project ‘A Moment’s Glance’ – a visual chronicle of the life of a single family

It might be a gauge of how normalised our pandemic world has become that Tom Hull has to clarify this is not a ‘lockdown shot’, but was in fact taken in 2016. It is one of a series the photographer was compiling as a record of his family and where he had come from; and, by inference, to understand who he now was.

The photo is of his grandparents’ Ruth and Bill’s bungalow, along the coast east of Brighton, the town where Hull had grown up. One of a row whose living rooms had amazing sea views, Hull recalls that, as was the fashion, all were  closed off from it by the proverbial net curtains, protecting homes’ privacy from the road that ran between them and the sea.

But small and idiosyncratic as it was – ‘it had the longest, narrowest toilet ever and a baffling dodecahedron of a conservatory extension out the back’ – for Hull, it remains a space charged with nostalgic memories. Ruth became a gran at 45 – a few years older than Hull is now – and the couple moved into the bungalow soon after they were both 50. So, for what seems the golden eternity of childhood, Hull remembers four sets of uncles and aunties and up to 12 grandchildren cramming in for many, boisterous family events that his grandparents hosted over the years.

By the time this image was taken, Bill had been diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease and Ruth was dealing with the fact that he was slipping away, even while he was alive; he would eventually die of a heart attack two years later. Hull is sure that in all their years together, they never spent more than two weeks apart. 

His photographic project, ‘A Moment’s Glance’, was intended to be chronicle of the life of a single family, its rich layers, sweet joys and incumbent pains; and in homage to his grandparents, this is Hull’s ‘Arundel Tomb’. Here, ever in the present, Bill is kissing Ruth tenderly; the gaze on Ruth’s face set, wondering how long he will stay.