For decades, David Hilliard and his father, Raymond, collaborated on The Dad Series. The pair had even made plans for what the last image would be, and Raymond had given his son permission to photograph him in his casket. COVID-19 restrictions, however, meant that when Raymond died of the virus in April 2020, he was cremated rather than embalmed. Hilliard, then, placed his father’s cremains in a casket-shaped urn and made images in spaces that had been meaningful to his father.
Dad, at Manmade Pond is particularly poignant for Hilliard, as it depicts where his father taught him and his brother to swim, canoe, and fish. In the center of the triptych, the urn rests on a small table as lily pads float atop the delicately rippling water. Alluding to Raymond’s love of nature, this conceptual portrait conveys the closeness felt between father and son at a time when traditional forms of mourning were brought to a standstill.