A few short weeks before Julian Lennon’s mother — and John Lennon’s first wife — Cynthia Lennon passed away, Julian Lennon was at the opening of his photography exhibit Horizon. This exhibit is different from Julian’s usual style, featuring “breathtaking” images from his recent visit to Africa rather than the celebrities he photographed for his 2010 show Timeless. The show is inspired by the work of the White Feather Foundation (Julian’s own not for profit) to bring clean drinking water to the people of Burkina Faso. The haunting photos manage to convey a sense of hope in very difficult situations, exactly as Lennon planned.
“It’s all about the horizon of hope. You can see that [the subjects] want to move forward with knowledge and wisdom and can do that. And there’s every chance for the next generation to have a better life.”
When Julian Lennon was at his mother’s bedside in the hours before her death, he must have thought about the hope Cynthia offered him in those early years.
While Cynthia and John Lennon were still married and The Beatles were exploding around the world, the atmosphere was tense and unpleasant, as John pushed further into intense drug use. Mood swings, aggressive behavior, and loud arguments became more and more common in the Lennon household, as recorded in papers belonging to the housekeeper, who also acted as a nanny to young Julian.
“When Mr Lennon was at home there were often rows during meals when John seemed to be too severe with Julian and criticised the way he behaved at table.
“Julian, who was a very sensitive child at the time would become upset and Mrs Lennon would argue with Mr Lennon about this.
“Mr Lennon would say Mrs Lennon was too soft with him. I think that he was probably not enough with his son at my house owing to his profession to know how to handle him.”
Cynthia Lennon was a good mother to Julian, helping him to weather the stress of his famous father’s troubled behavior. Even Yoko Ono paid tribute to Cynthia as she offered condolences to Julian Lennon.
“I’m very saddened by Cynthia’s death. She was a great person and a wonderful mother to Julian. She had such a strong zest for life and I felt proud how we two women stood firm in the Beatles family. Please join me in sending love and support to Julian at this very sad time.”
— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) April 1, 2015
Julian Lennon still has hope for the world, though he had to say goodbye far too early to his father and watch his mother suffer from cancer before her death. When asked by Artnet what decade he’d like to live in, Julian expressed that hope.
“Probably something in the future. I’d like to see where we go. I’ve seen where we’ve been, now I want to know what’s ahead.”