Ancestral photographs & Family snapshots

For my DVD presentation I am looking at the meaning we attatch to photographs of our ancestors and the way we feel about photos of our childhood and families. I have come across two interesting artists recently who have made work around the theme of the family photograph.

The first is this article about Irina Werning‘s diptychs where she has recreated old childhood photographs in the exact same spot, with the same person or people only much older. I find this project fascinating and although a simple idea, very clever and something I would love to try for some fun, it seems like a challenge. It allows us to directly compare the aging process and look for clues into what has occurred in the lives between each capture. Is the subject transported back to a mindset gone by when re-photographed? How does it feel to go back in time? Mimic the original moment superficially? With the below image you note such uncanny similarities which makes aging feel almost completely unimportant, the essence of the person is essentially exactly the same. It makes time seem ageless.Looking at my father’s childhood photo albums I came across similar themes, family portraits that had been recreated over the years in the same spot, on the same traditional family holiday in Hunstanton, Norfolk. How had family dynamics changed as the years went on? How did faces grow and when did personalities and individuality and independence start glimmering through the pictured children? Could you look for signs of life on their faces, did anybody appear sadder one year than the last? Is anyone missing?
The second compelling family snapshot related series I have come across featured at Huh. Magazine is by Vicki Thai. She has used both old and new photographs in a collage, layering method to join up the past to the present. It’s interesting to note how the two adjoining people are the same person, and the images are meant to appear merged together to represent the whole of a person, to create a portrait encompassing two different points in time within their life. It makes me wonder whether Thai is trying to suggest that the old and the new are one and the same, that time is irrelevant to the portrait, and it makes me feel as if however much time has gone by, everything is always ultimately in the past. The future about to happen will be the past before you realize.

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