When Sally Mann published a series of photographs of her children titled Immediate Family in 1992, she spotlighted childhood with a rich tonal backdrop of a Virginia riverside summer house, and she was met with accusations of child pornography. About twenty years later, caught in a starkly different contemporary artistic current, the photographer Alain LaBoile presents La Famillie, a series that for its distinctive silver gelatin aesthetic and subject matter seems to pick up where Mann left off.
LaBoile’s work, unlike Mann’s, lacks the suggestion of immediacy, binding viewers within the nostalgic frame of childhood play, entirely carefree and unabashed. Mann’s work is urgent: she reveals a haloed shot of her daughter, blonde hair dancing in pool of water like some inexperienced Ophelia, and she tragically subverts its innocence with image of the last nude swimming photo her son let her take. Childhood for Mann is something to be beautifully lost, but for LaBoile, it’s more of a constant realm, easily returned to with a flash and made blindingly undeniable by jarring accents of white.
The innovative power of this contemporary work relies upon oh-so-subtle symbols of purity and incorruptibility of youth; a boy digs himself from mud filled and grave-like abyss, resurrected in glowing white to a young girl who prances about the Edenic verdure. Similarly, another daughter remains preserved in a class case, safely nuzzled between fine china and a white cat. Bums innocently moon the camera like those of cherubs. A boy printed in a blinding sort of white appears to hang from a tree; yet upon closer inspection, he’s just climbing, playing the part of a-not-yet-fallen Adam for an onlooking sister. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)
In her recent work, the photographer Lisa Lindvay archives the indirect yet undeniable marks left on her family and their home by her mother’s mental illness. With the family landscape surviving as her constant foundation, she invites viewers into a claustrophobic space isolated from the perspective and normalcy of the outside world. Although we are given indicators of their location— McDonald’s bags, generic soda, a “Legalize Gay” wristband—the family appears as if entombed in a time capsule, each member left to fend for themselves since the onset of the matriarch’s illness.
The camera acts as an active character throughout the narrative, forcing intimacy when the closeness and comforts of family seem irrevocably fractured. Eye contact is avoided with all creatures and things aside from the lens itself, which somehow breaks boundaries and transcends each subject’s seemingly self-imposed solitude. Intimate and sensual moments— the applying of hair dye, half-nude lounging, naps with the loyal dog— are generously laid bare for the artist, providing viewers with intermittent flickers of hope.
In her still lifes, otherwise mundane or grotesque subjects are assigned deeper meanings. The artist worshipfully documents trash, each object appearing like a pitiful symbol of continuing life and hope amidst crippling circumstances. A jar of cheese puffs is seen from the floor and lit from an unknowable source, as if standing at the alter of some personal cathedral; an oily ring on a pizza box surrounds a golden mane like the halo of a forgotten saint. As the family faces an uncertain future, half-eaten pizza and dirty socks become the only reminder that time has not in fact stood still within the house; Lindvay captures each with beautifully archival rigor as if to denote days on the calendar. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)
The saying “home is where the heart is” very rarely relates to contemporary art. And though the works featured here are not directly about home, they are informed to some degree by immediate family,relationships and experiences that stem from it. In a global spectrum of east meets west these five artists come from genres ranging from Chinese Avant Garde to lowbrow painting, from surrealism to contemporary portraiture, to name a few. The paintings, mixed media works and digital media stills of artists: Song Dong, Brooke Grucella, Seonna Hong, Aaron Holz and Zhang Xiaogang exemplify the diversity with which the artists’ loved ones have become not only the subject for the works, but also at times part of the process, as well as a platform to tell a story that becomes increasingly universal.
I recall visiting the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco a couple of years ago to see Song Dong’s massive solo exhibition of works made with his family members as subjects, as well as a massive installation that incorporated decades worth of of family possessions as material. His work is deeply personal, with a strong narrative thread, and truly draw you into his world with their reverence and profoundly flawless execution. Zhang Xiaogang’s works from his series Bloodlines uses other family portraits as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of his immediate family that they experienced as he came of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Each piece in this series has a thin red line that weaves throughout the composition, symbolizing the connection of heritage and family.
Photographer Julie Blackmon is the eldest of nine and current mother of three. Drawing inspiration from her own life experiences and also the paintings of Jan Steen, a 17th centure Dutch genre painter, she creates rich tableaux of family life.
Bypassing the idea of parenthood as a prison sentence, trapping the adult away from his or her “real” life, Blackmon, instead, reminds us of how valuable domestic life is to our own sense of dreaming– examining the home as a magical place where fantasy and reality merge together to empower community, creativity, and inner exploration. It is a place that we can remember fondly, lovingly, and longingly. Even if our childhood was less than perfect, there are still flashes of brilliance in the everyday quiet interludes that Blackmon seems to address with ease and specificity.
Take a gander at these layered, fantasy-inducing pictures from model-turned-photographer Tierney Gearon. Gearon has received a lot of attention in a short period of time for her multi-exposures that often feature members of her family. Some of these have a flawless capability for transportation, taking you to rural locales and private backyards that you feel like you’ve seen before. Maybe in a dream. Family, nature, adventure, love; a lifetime captured in one image. More after the jump.