Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
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I have been photographing my family for more than thirty years. The pictures here are of my mother, Rose, and my younger brother, Dennis. My father, Sal, died in 1991.
Dennis was born on November 21, 1949. My mother nearly gave birth to him in my father’s barbershop. They rushed to the hospital, where a nurse administered ether to postpone the birth until the doctor arrived. When Dennis was six years old, my parents discovered that he was developmentally disabled. Later, my mother read in a medical journal that delaying birth can affect the flow of oxygen to the brain, causing brain damage. She thinks this is what happened to Dennis.
My brother is shy and mild mannered. He has an impeccable memory for details and loves to ask questions, but he hates to talk about himself. He always mimics my mother’s gestures — for example, leaning over when she leans over, or, as in one photograph here, covering his head with his hand to imitate her parasol.
Mom is concerned about what will happen to Dennis after she dies. As she grows older (she is now seventy-seven), she finds it harder and harder to care for him. Dennis fears leaving her and going to a home for the developmentally disabled. Recently, an opportunity arose for Dennis to move into a clean, well-run residence. The day before he was to leave, he changed his mind out of fear. He and my mother had a big cry, and he didn’t go. I worry that wherever he ultimately ends up will not be as good as the place they passed up.
These photographs appear courtesy of the Steve Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
The photographs from this selection are available as a PDF only. Click here to download.