“What would be the most difficult single thing for you to live without?” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Ciara Ward by © Jeannette Breward

When my good friend and fellow conceptual photographer Ciara became a subject for The Birthday Book, we knew right away that we wanted to do something fun, creative, and a bit outside the box for her portrait. We decided to create an image that represented the impact that photography had on her life. I asked her to explain the meaning behind our shoot in her own words, so here is what she had to say about the portrait we created together:

“A few years ago my situation was very different from what it is today: jobless, struggles with infertility, desperately unhappy. I started to get seriously involved in conceptual/fine art photography during this time – it gave me an outlet to cope with all of the negative feelings you can imagine go with that sort of a situation. When Jeanette and I talked about what sort of imagine we wanted to create, we settled on something representative of me as an artist.

During that awful time in my life I would phone my parents, usually my Dad, and he would tell me that he was sure there was “a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not another train”. This image is meant to show the end of that tunnel, and photography played a large role in helping me reach it intact. As a bonus I am wearing the outfit I wore when I created my very first conceptual series, which was aptly named “The Nothing”.

P.S.: In case you are wondering I would now describe my situation as: employed, lucky mother, and raving (but friendly/harmless) lunatic.”

Image and text by © Jeannette Breward

An Interview with Ciara

Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?

A. Having a birthday that falls on (or near) a holiday meant that we never really made a big deal of it. My family isn’t really big on birthdays, which is sad. If I had to pick one, probably my best one was last year – my husband and I decided not to go to our big family dinner (which always falls ON my birthday), and instead we invited all our friends over and had a potluck Thanksgiving Dinner, which was (total chaos) but also really great. We had so much fun that we will probably make this a new tradition.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. The worst Birthday I ever had was probably my 30th – despite being excited about turning 30 (no, seriously, I actually was – 30 is GREAT!) I was about six months pregnant, and we went to our huge family (twenty-five or so people: aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents) Thanksgiving dinner and. . . .no one but my parents and husband said anything about it being my Birthday. Not even a sad little candle in my pumpkin pie. It was very disappointing because I felt like 30 was a milestone.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?

A. I haven’t actually received it yet, but I know it’s coming. The best present I’ve ever got for a birthday will be this year – my Dad got us tickets to see Sigur Ros in Toronto. He has been emailing me a count down (if you knew my Dad you’d understand that him using email is a BIG DEAL). It’s going to be extra amazing because on this tour they will be trying out different songs so every concert will be slightly different. In close second would be a few years ago when he and I went to see the “David Bowie Is” exhibit at the AGO and it was amazing. I love being able to share these experiences with my Dad, especially as an adult.

Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?

A. Turkey? Or turkey leftovers. I think as long as I don’t have to do the cooking (or cleaning) I am happy with whatever I get to eat!

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. I think the most important thing is to make memories and be with your loved ones – but the same can probably be said for any occasion like this. Personally, since I became a mother, I’ve been appreciating birthdays more because it gives me time to reflect on everything that has happened in the last year (good and bad), and everything I want to achieve for the next year. And, you know, consuming unhealthy amounts of baked goods (and in my case, turkey).

Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?

A. Yes – my mom always makes me a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. She makes the best cheesecakes ever (and also the best Valentine’s Day cookies, which she has been making every Valentine’s Day since I was in Junior Kindergarten!).