Phil and Me, a portrait of a father-daughter relationship blighted by mental illness, is a surprise page-turner. A tapestry of passport photos of the pair, taken over nearly 30 years, sets the scene, providing punctuation marks in a story with no beginning, middle or end. Their cumulative effect is mesmerising; a fragmented history unfolding before our eyes.
Photographer Amanda Tetrault has used her camera to get closer to her father and at the same time to hide from him, to protect herself from the unpredictable moodswings that defined his schizophrenia. From 1997 to 2003, she has persuaded Phil to collaborate in the surrealist tableaux and documentary images that, along with his handwritten poems, form the majority of the book. Through these insightful portraits, we gain a sense of the arbitary nature of her father’s good and bad days: the intellectual, writing gentle poetry in a café; the outsider at the party, caged by his own mind. Tetrault frequently appears in the pictures too, smiling, stoic and sad by turns, a voyeur in her own life.
In a letter to “Phil, Philop, Flip Flop, Daddy”, Tetrault describes the sorrow, the humiliation, the anger, the shame, the fear that shaped a childhood. Through her pictures, she conveys a powerful and unsentimental love for the man who will always be her father.