Family Sequences (1980-1986)

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In Family Sequences, I use sequences of candid images to principally examine interpersonal family relationships. In this book, I concentrate mostly on my husband, Mark with his mother, Lill and my cousin, Ellen with her husband, Alan. In later work, I explored the father – son relationship primarily using my husband and our first-born son, Andy.

This work refers to snap shots in subject matter but differs in intent, style, and form. Typically, family snap shots highlight and celebrate ritual moments of domestic life, such as weddings, birthdays, and vacations. Snap shots are preferably positive and flattering. Family Sequences concern the mundane, neutral, and temporal moments of everyday life, in addition to ritual occasions. While people occasionally appear happy In Family Sequences they often look bored, tired, detached, and have divided attention. When ritual occasions are depicted, the intent is to question the ritual’s function and what actually occurs rather than simply to commemorate the close knit happy family. In these photographs gender and generational roles are explored. In many, traditional stereotypical roles are evident such a Lill serving Mark coffee and Mark lifting a heavy turkey.

Visually, the images differ from snap shots in the greater distance from subject, the consistent inclusion of more than one person, and the emphasis on environmental detail. Snap shots are often posed, especially when more than one person is depicted, as in a baby placed on a grandmother’s lap expressly for the picture or a group of people standing in front of a monument. Although my subjects knew they were being photographed, these Family Sequences are truly candid. My family accepted that when I was around, I took pictures and they engaged normally with each other.

Until the advent of digital photography, family snap shots (especially those framed or displayed in family albums) usually included only the one “best” photo. I use sequences of images in order to emphasize continuing interaction and gestures over time and to demonstrate how actions come together and fall apart, not the “decisive moment” when all is in harmony. Still images (compared to moving images) allow gestures to be examined at length. Viewed in real time, much would be lost. Displayed in slow motion, the actions would become theatrical and artificial.

The size of my original prints, approximately 3 x 4 ½ inches, reference snap shots. The mounted sequences of 3 to 6 images vary from 9 x 20 ¾ to 9 x 37 ¼ inches. My images technically differ from snap shots in several ways. I did not use direct flash. The compositions are not always centered and the print quality is high. In these ways Family Sequences have a more transparent quality than the highly stylized snap shot.

The various sequences also relate to each other. In exhibition, they are double or triple hung to facilitate comparisons and connections. Following the narrative over several years, one sees the growth, change, and repeated patterns of people’s lives.