Cince Johnston
in Maria


Freddy and Ceydie

Cince Johnston, Sainte-Pétronille, Québec |

On April 20, 2008, a man in Croatia died. As part of his post-mortem legacy, he saved the lives of two individuals in Belgium – Freddy, and the photographer’s daughter, Ceydie. Ten years after their liver transplants, through this strange fate of a shared organ, they met one another for the first time – Ceydie, aged 13, and Freddy, aged 75: Freddy agreeably; Ceydie with pubescent protest.

Aside from an image of that brief meeting, this project is a visual portrait that separately documents the lives of Ceydie (now living in Canada) and Freddy ten years post-transplant. Their combined stories represent the symbolic act of bringing the donor liver back together and paying homage to this unknown man in Croatia.

The personal narrative of Johnston’s daughter, Ceydie, is a series of images fraught with layers of emotional gestures as part of a dialogue between mother and daughter. In the process of establishing her own voice, Ceydie embraces and pushes her mother away through motions of distance, outright annoyance, and eventual playful collaboration. While Johnston deals with her daughter’s adolescent changes, she is confronted with her own deep-seated fears surrounding her daughter’s health – a lesson in learning to let go – and in this connective process of making images together, she also finds a place of healing.

Photographing Freddy, a total stranger, proved to be a different photographic interaction for Johnston. On their second meeting, he tells her a story marked by echoes of family betrayal that had surfaced immediately following his transplant and was still impacting him ten years later. He was also newly retired, telling her that “retirement was a punishment.”

While Johnston’s daughter had rules – a photo a day (not retroactive), and sometimes only a body part – Freddy was completely open to the microscope of Johnston’s camera in their short time together.

Johnston hopes this project will create space for conversation, encouraging people to discuss with those close to them their position on the process of deceased organ transplants and to question the broader ramifications of their government’s current deceased organ donor policy in the face of organ shortages.


Freddy and Ceydie

As a mother of five, Cince Johnston in her photography practice explores intimate family narratives alongside street documentary and activist-based storytelling for change. Combining her past studies in art history at Bishop’s University, photojournalism at SAIT and an MFA in documentary media at Toronto Metropolitan University, Johnston’s work explores the dynamics of relationships and their inherent complexities in a photographic style that falls somewhere between painting and newspaper reportage.

From an ecological standpoint, Johnston is looking to incorporate more environmentally conscious aspects in her work via sustainable printing practices such as using recycled paper and recycled ink, or low environmental impact printing methods as with the Risograph printer or working with cyanotype. Of late, she has been binding her project this place I call home whispers fragments of secrets to me by hand, to emulate the pace of Covid lockdowns and as a homage to her female forebearers, who spent hours knitting, darning, sewing.