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Park’s Pants: A Photo Essay by Nancy Nolan

By Nancy Nolan

Park’s Pants: A Photo Essay

Park’s Pants grew out of my complete wonder, love and awe for my son Park. It began with the pregnancy. There were complications, and his birth was difficult for both of us. Confined to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), I sat at my tiny son’s side for two excruciating months. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His fight for life inspired me, and soon I realized I needed to document his journey, both for myself and for him.

I’m not a writer – I’m a visual person. So, I chose to do this without words. I decided to make a series of images, one each year. I felt there needed to be constant in each image, and I wanted it to have some significance, so I decided on a pair of jeans that belonged to his father – a pair of Levi’s that at first swallowed him up and that he would one day grow into.

My medium is photography, and my method was born out of my need to document Park. I promised myself I would not control the shoots – I would not control Park. Whatever happened, happened. There would be no judgment of myself of my son in the work. Not wanting the distraction of color, I photographed in black & white. And, wishing for the quiet, slow pave of introspection, I chose to shoot with large format cameras.


Over the years – as my son has grown – this project has taken on unexpected depth and complexity. I acted on instinct when I began the series and later came to realize my own relationship with this process was apparent in the images.

I wanted to record and explore this life that Park fought so hard for. And, we did it together. This unsuspecting child who gave so much of himself to the project rarely complained about putting those jeans on year after year for his mother.

He is nineteen now. The jeans, once enveloping him like the sea, are now snug. It’s a natural ending, but also just the beginning.

Inviting Arkansas

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