Most people are familiar with traditional Christmas tales like Twas The Night Before Christmas. In this brilliantly dark, yet heartwarming, take on the Christmas story, Magnum Photos legend Trent Parke turns the camera on his own family to record the suburban rituals of Christmas. What began as a moment of clarity after vomiting into a Christmas tree bucket on his in-laws’ lawn, Parke’s photo essay reveals the absurdities that lurk in the suburban shadows.
On the 28th of November 2004, our first son Jem was born.
At the time my partner Narelle and I lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment in Sydney.
Apart from two years living in a tent, I had spent the last 15 years of my life living in apartment blocks.
On the 16th of October 2006 our second son Dash was born. Our small two-bedroom apartment became even smaller.
Things had to change. Wanting more space, family support and a change of scenery we moved to the city of Adelaide, Narelle’s place of birth.
On arriving in Adelaide, with our life in storage, we bunkered down with Narelle’s folks while we tried to find a place to live. Like my parents in Newcastle, they live in the suburbs.
One afternoon I decided to venture to the local mega mall, specifically to the hairdresser. After removing all of my very long hair the very young hairdresser said ‘There you go, a new hair cut for a new start’.
I thought, that’s nice and what a great thing it was to be able to see again.
On returning to the in-laws that evening I started to feel very odd and a little queasy.
As day turned to night I lay down on the freshly mown back lawn and watched clouds drift past a nearly full moon. I expected to hear a dog howl or a cat wail.
I started vomiting, violently, and uncontrollably. I grabbed the nearest thing I could throw up into.
And it was there, while staring into that bright red bucket, vomiting every hour on the hour, for 15 hours straight, that I started to think how strange, families, suburbia, life, vomit and in particular, Christmas…. really was.
In the video below, Trent Parke discusses his thoughts behind the Christmas Bucket project and how it was made.