Exposure: Paul Guilmoth

Paul Guilmoth’s photography draws on their work as a carer for the elderly, but instead of producing documentary images, Guilmoth sees their work as an escape and an opportunity to build new worlds

“The week before Trula died, she began spending entire days reclined in her field. Her body would be so still we’d come up closer to be sure she hadn’t left us. A slight movement of her head chasing a loose swallow, or a finger grazing a plucked blade of grass was enough. Tuesday night she had come into the kitchen after a particularly long 12 hours in her field. Her hair dishevelled like a bird’s nest. She looked at a rhubarb stalk on the table and said to us ‘all this time I’ve never seen the flowers growing, but they’re taller every morning’.” Paul Guilmoth

We don’t often talk about how artists survive in the early days of their careers. Unlike actors, who we know to be waiting tables or doing bar work to make ends meet, artists are under intense pressure to project success, even when the market does very little to support their survival. Let alone their growth.

This is one of the reasons why the new book by Paul Guilmoth is so special. For the last eight years, the American photographer has been an elderly carer, doing the emotional and physical labour of supporting folk in their final days. Since 2018, Guilmoth has been taking care of Trula, an older woman living in a very removed mansion in the mountains in New England. They supported Trula and her husband for 50 hours every week, making their lives as comfortable as possible.

All images from At Night Gardens Grow by Paul Guilmoth, published by Stanley/Barker