Justin Coombes

Untitled (copy of found photograph), (2009) (date unknown)

3.9 x 5.9 inches, C-type print (medium unknown)
Edition of 5

Price: $50

Justin Coombes


The hawthorn has been struck by lightning and has split in two. The left side is dead; the right is beginning to blossom.

We are teaching Kate to read. Dara’s chin is nestled on my shoulder and we are both stooped over the back of Kate’s little chair, my left arm cradling her waist. She is mouthing the words, written clearly in the EARLY WORDS primer that dwarves her lap, ‘C is for clown….’

It is a very misty afternoon; we are driving on a motorway flyover, which crosses an A-road below. A huge Ronald McDonald sculpture looms up through the mist from the drive-through below us.

It is the late 60’s; you are outside an aviary; to your left are your older sister and stepmother. They have their backs to us and are looking intently at the birds. Your body faces the cage but your head is turned to look at us. You have a broad, happy face. Behind you, a cockatiel floats above your head, like an idea or a question mark.

Early one morning, I am walking through a North London cemetery. I pass a group of three men and two women, all of them Goths. They are looking for a spot to conduct a photo shoot. Their clothes and equipment are all black, except one of the men is carrying a white umbrella.

Grandpa Paul and Grandma (little Grandma) have stopped on the hard shoulder of the M1 for lunch. It is 1972. There are picnic chairs with orange and blue striped canvas. There are thermoses and a plate of ham sandwiches with white bread. Sunday best: the place they want to be.

We are on a pebbled beach on a bright midsummer’s day; our faces fill the frame. You are in profile, stage right, kissing the side of my head. I am stage left. Laughing, full face, mouth open. The line of my right eyebrow points to the arched bridge of your nose. Your eyes are screwed tight in concentration: there are the faintest beginnings of crow’s feet.

The photograph is a mistake or a sneaky steal by my father who must have taken one of Mum’s upper half, a moment before. This one captures her white legs, the fuchsia pink dress just above her knees, the front garden fence, the pebbled drive, the parched summer lawn. Fence, lawn and drive occupy about a third of the picture frame each. The lawn is a pallid green pyramid; one corner is yellowy and bleached from being covered by something. Mum’s left leg is a thin white flag stuck in the top of the lawn. Just above her ankle are blonde downy hairs that are same colour as the bleached grass.

Artist Bio

Justin Coombes was born in 1977 and studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford, and Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is currently studying towards an MPhil in Photography at the Royal College of Art, London. Since 2004, he has had exhibited widely in solo and group shows in the UK and Europe and is represented by Paradise Row Gallery.

Artist Site