Unfinished Father

By Erik Kessels

“Films and stories teach us that endings are neat (and often happy), the truth is that everything ends abruptly, more or less half done. No matter how carefully we plan and how precisely we execute those plans, there is no guarantee that they will reach our hoped for conclusion.”

Unfinished Father is a very personal project. Erik Kessels’ father suffered a stroke and can barely speak or move since. Prior to this, he was extremely active. His projects included restoring examples of that Italian icon: the Fiat 500 (or “Topolino”.) Before his stroke, he’d completed four such restorations and was working on a fifth, the half-finished carapace of which was left abandoned at his home.

This car came to represent his unfinished father — this is why it forms the basis of this project, which is an exhibition as well as a book, published by RVB Books. Erik transported his dad’s last Topolino to Italy and presents it alongside intimately detailed images his father made to document its restoration. This work is about a man who — like his vehicle — will never be complete, but remain forever interrupted.

The unfinished Topolino is the reverse of his father’s situation in life: he was a man who didn’t like to leave things undone, who saw them to their end. We can attempt to control our circumstances, but in the final analysis they control us.

Erik is shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2016 with this project. Works by the shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery from 16 April until 26 June 2016 and subsequently presented at the Deutsche Börse headquarters in Frankfurt/Eschborn.


Fotografia Europea
Reggio Emilia, Italy
May 2015 – July 2015

Photographers Gallery
London, UK
16 April 2016 – 26 June 2016