I want to be Good: Klein Boetie is my first published photo book. In its final form, the book aims to invite the viewer deep into the relationship my brother and I share.
Art is about fostering understanding in my experience, and my goal has always been to create works that will bring good into the world through the understanding they allow. It’s not often I feel understood, but my brother understands, and through him I am again coming to understand myself, which is as good as it gets at my age. The goal of this work then is to give a platform for understanding such goodness, and hopefully inspiring good in others.
I began with the intention to make a photographic narrative that would help me better understand the nebulous nature of brotherhood. My hypothesis was that as our lives have been largely nomadic, Ben has been the constant mirror through which I have perceived myself. The result is a book comprised of photographs, texts, and artifacts from eighteen years living beside him, sometimes sharing one room, other times over 8,000 miles apart.
Largely inspired by Robert Frank and Bill Burke, everything in this book is deliberate. The organization of the photographs, the incorporations of text or story, and the context in which each artifact finds itself. Every part of the book feeds into the narrative of our relationship. The images span our lifetimes, which I have come to define in three sections.
The idea of three sections, while difficult to distinguish if the viewer doesn’t know our story, but denoted by either a single or series of text messages, is to further show how my brother has effectively been the mirror through which I’ve perceived myself since I can remember.
The book shows how a nomadic upbringing meant a relationship beyond brotherhood, constantly refencing that depth and showing the closeness we have through these artifacts.
The book then seems to remove Ben from the narrative almost entirely, showing the years I spent away from him. Even this section though is disrupted by a full spread of texts capturing intimate, jovial, insecure and often comical exchanges covering the two-year time frame, all evidence of depth over distance.
Announced again with a text, we were reunited as permanently-as-possible come the end of this past summer. Spending everyday together again, I’ve been rediscovering the person I’ve always understood best.
Admittedly, this book is made mostly of the “good” things. There is little in the way of negative interactions represented in the 82 pages, but that is – while hard to believe – directly proportional to the amount of actual conflict we have had.
While I am hugely proud of the final iteration, the process of creating this has been remarkably enlightening, and is best described by the dedication on the second page: “24, 18.”
24 – my birthday, 18 – Ben’s birthday. 20 – my age, 4 – for, 18 – Ben’s age. From where I began, with the question of how has he shaped me, I came to the conclusion that in truth, it isn’t him for my sake, but instead, me for him. That is what I mean when I say, I want to be Good, and why the subtitle is Afrikaans for little brother.