Created under Joop Swart Masterclass at World Press Photo
In Neither One Of Us Is As Saved As We’d Like To Be, September Dawn Bottoms adopts a multimedia approach to take a very intimate look at herself, her brother, and her mother and address the cyclical nature of their own sexual trauma and mental illness. She seeks to encourage a more collaborative documentary process and take the viewer through a journey using archival family photos, images taken on a disposable camera by her mother, and quotes from her brother. She and her brother put the project together and did one voice recording over it around a fire among the same trees that have witnessed these cycles for generations.
'My brother and I were molested by the same family member and went over twenty years never saying a word about it. It wasn't until a little over a year ago while sitting in our great grandmothers dilapidated home where he now resides that we revealed the truth to one another. We had grown up apart for a huge chunk of our lives and were only starting to come together again because of my recent visits back home to Oklahoma to understand more about our mother.
It was well known that my mother was molested by her father from the time she was around two years old until she married my father. A fact which set the tone for the rest of her life. She was abusive and neglectful. She often left us in situations where we were easy to abuse. My brother has never quite forgiven her in a way that I have and our respective relationship with our mother is very complicated.
We began taking long walks through the woods putting pieces of the puzzle together, focusing less on the 'why' and more on the validation that what we experienced was real and harmful. Thankful to have each other to process it with. We spent hours shuffling through family photos, marveling at the ugliness of our land and how it grew to be so green and beautiful. We found a picture of my grandmother standing on the porch, pregnant with our mother. She's wearing a bright red dress and there's a beautiful blue car behind her but the land around her looks dead and haunted. We decided that photo was important and we wanted to use it. We took self portraits together while discussing details of our past, wondering aloud if we grew to be any better than them. I showed him images my mother had recently taken of me on the disposable cameras I provided.
And eventually, we pieced together 'Not As Saved As We'd Like To Be'.'
I love my mother deeply. And I know she loves us deeply. Sometimes that can mean very different things.