Deanna Dikeman, Leaving and Waving

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Chose Commune (here). Hardcover (19 x 23.5 cm), 112 pages, with 66 color and black and white photographs. Includes an essay by the artist. Concept and editorial direction by Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi. Design by Bureau Kayser. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: In 1991, Deanna Dikeman snapped a photograph of her parents waving goodbye as she was sitting in the car about to leave their house. That one photograph turned into a 27 year project documenting the tender and sorrowful ritual of saying goodbye. Put together into a parade of images, the pictures turn this mundane and routine act into a heartfelt and candid tribute to family and aging. Dikeman says that she is “fascinated with every day, ordinary stuff. It’s magical and we often don’t realize it.” 

The series was recently published in a photobook entitled Leaving and Waving, the words simply reflecting the straightforward idea of the project. The book immediately stands out as a well produced object, thoughtfully designed and beautifully printed. A black and white photograph of the artist’s mother smiling and waving goodbye from the driveway takes up the entire cover and continues around to the back where it reveals her father also waving goodbye. The title of the book and the artist’s name are elegantly placed on the spine in pink font with certain letters slightly zigzagging, a neat design element. Each image is dated with the month and the year, emphasizing both the singular moment and the slow passing of time. Throughout the flow of the book, the photographs are occasionally separated by pages in bright color, often matching colorful clothes of the mother. 

The narrative moves in chronological order, and unfolds in an intimate and tender way. When Dikeman’s parents reached their seventies, they sold her childhood home and moved to a modest red house in the same town of Sioux City, Iowa, to retire. The book opens with a color photo capturing the artist’s mother with blond fluffy hair in a pink blouse and purple shorts with the father standing in the background closer to the house as they both wave goodbye. The purple endpapers elegantly match the color of mother’s shorts, and the date and the year tell us when the photo was taken – it was July of 1991. The following photograph is taken from the car, capturing not only the parents but the artist with her camera in the side mirror, revealing her position as she takes the photographs.

In page after page, the photographs capture the same moment repeated again and again over almost three decades – her parents waving goodbye outside their house. It is hard not to admire their enthusiasm and their always smiling faces. They hide in the garage on a rainy evening, gently hug each other, blow goodbye kisses, and wear big thick jackets during winter. As the years pass by, we notice the changes around them: from shifts of seasons and fashion to changes in the artist’s life, as the photographs start to occasionally include her son, first as a baby and then later as grown young man.

Unavoidably, the parents get older, their wrinkles get deeper, their hair is thinner, and their bodies are more fragile. And then mother is the only one waving goodbye – Dikeman’s father passed away in 2009. In the last photograph that includes him, he is slightly leaning on the car in the garage and holding a quad cane while the mother is standing next to him.      

At this break point, the photographs switch to color. In one picture, the mother is looking at her now grown up grandson who is in the car ready to leave; she is wearing a pink t-shirt and the page on the left matches its color. The subsequent images continue to capture the artist’s mother, now by herself, as her smile is now less frequent and more wistful. One day in 2017, we see her inside, as she had moved to an assisted living apartment. She passed away later that year. The very last photograph shows the very familiar red house on a sunny day, but now the garage door is closed and for the first time, there is no one there to wave goodbye. 

Dikeman’s series brings to mind a number of notable projects that have looked at family relationships and the intimacy of aging. Doug DuBois spent decades photographing the nuanced relationships in his family. Phillip Toledano documented the final years of his father, delicately capturing his spirit and his struggle with memory loss in the photobook Days With My Father, and more recently Paul Graham created a tender portrait of his elderly mother in a book simply titled Mother.

Leaving and Waving is a small self-sufficient project tenderly capturing the small moments of loving family relationships. It is a heartwarming and beautiful photobook, cleverly presented, with a quiet and very personal story that will resonate with many. The continuous sweep of intimate moments evokes similar goodbyes from our own memories, almost certainly bringing forth both smiles and tears. 

Collector’s POV: Deanna Dikeman is represented by Haw Contemporary in Kansas City (here). Her work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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Read more about: Deanna Dikeman, Chose Commune

One comment

  1. Pete /

    ‘smiles and tears’
    Yep.

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