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)