Belfast Exposed is proud to present Street View: Portraits of Saying Goodbye by artist Mark Bell.
In Portraits of Saying Goodbye, Bell uses the camera as a tool in his own invented ritual to add meaning to relationships. As a young child, his mother would realize in a panic that he was no longer in the house and would instead find him on a neighbour’s porch, plying them with questions. He has never grown out of that way of engaging with the world, and find it helps him connect with other people as more of a participant, not just a spectator.
During the last ten years, Bell has not lived in one place for more than two, gathering friends wherever he went. In moments spent with these people to whom he felt connected, he couldn’t help but feel a melancholic sense that the moment would end. These moments resonate with the Japanese phrase mono no aware (物の哀れ) which speaks of the awareness of the transience of things and a quiet sadness because of it. Along with that sadness, however, a celebration of the experience of which you bore witness.
For Bell, taking a portrait is like a ceremony to set aside the person, to sanctify what is valued most. In the words of Anthony Kiedis, “All I want is for you to be happy and take this moment to make you my family”. In this way Portraits of Saying Goodbye is a set of portraits made up of people becoming part of Bell’s acquired family in a new and foreign place. It attempts to be as much a portrait of the person pictured as it is a record of his connection to them and the melancholy found intertwined with closeness.