Family Phtography

10A family photograph is something that everyone puts value upon as it holds fond memories of loved ones. However they do not portray an accurate representation of the family dynamic as there are accepted social behaviours preventing the photograph displaying anything other than a positive image. For example the image which I have chosen to analyse is a photograph of my mother in the arms of my grandmother as a small child. The image displays typical conventions of how the family want to be portrayed, the maternal and caring nature of the mother. My Grandmother was probably controlling the way she wanted to be seen by the camera, In order to create the “perfect” family photograph. However I know from stories told by my mother that the family was under a lot of stress from my grandfathers Jewish parents has he had married a Christian woman. Therefore the moments before and after the shot was taken could be completely different that the mood presented here, but these stories have been lost in time.


Discussing this with my mother made me realise that as she cannot remember the photograph being taken, and unfortunately there is no one else here to tell the story of the image, that the story behind it can only be told through assumption. Photographs are used for digital accuracy of how a person looks and the scenery surrounding them; however can never capture emotional accuracy.


In reference to who actually has control over the photograph, there are a number of factors stopping the subject from fully owning the way they are portrayed. Historically the woman was in charge of the family photographs; this was supported by Kodak advertisements and also is represented in my chosen image. It is fair to suggest that the photographer has part control as to how the image is lit and composed as they are the one operating the camera and taking the final image. Furthermore if there is more than one member in the photograph you cannot completely control what the others do. Therefore the closest we can have to owning our photograph is through portraits as we only have to worry about the way we look and act in the snapshot. These still encounters a problem however as there is still a photographer present. The recent selfie trend is a modern way of overcoming these problems and allowing full ownership of the photography process. This is a photograph which you take of yourself where you can see the image that you are taking before you fully capture it, therefore deciding the lighting and composition yourself.

Annette Kuhn (1995) Acts of Memory and Imagination New edition William M Murphy

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