In Family, for a change photographers turn the lens inwards and we are invited to explore their own private world in an intimate way. Drawing on a large, diverse and rich style of photography, Sophie Spencer-Wood demonstrates her talent and savoir-faire as a picture editor; from the classic Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon and Maria by Lee Friedlander to the less well-known work of photographers such as Joelle Depont in her moving pictures of her son, Max.
It was a pleasant surprise to find the work of one of my favourite photographers, Bernard Plossu. We are given the chance here to see Plossu’s records of his family, particularly his wife, Françoise. It is very rare to come across this work, as it is out of print and untraceable (I have tried hard!). Plossu’s work is intimate; his style dreamlike and full of sensitivity. The picture of his sleeping wife’s neck gracing the back cover is a perfect example of his gentle touch, in which the tender bond between the couple is palpable.
The introduction by professor of sociology Henri Peretz offers a condensed historical background and a contemporary view on family photography. The design grants a lot of space to the pictures without crowding the pages and uses white pages and large borders to let the pictures breathe. Each photographer has an informative biography at the back of the book written by critic Margaret Walter. In an otherwise enjoyable book, the most obvious omission is a dearth of African or South American photography.
It was nevertheless fascinating to look at photographers’ personal work; the work they’ve produced without the pressure of answering a brief; the images they decided to create freely. The pictures become liberated from their imperfections and the work becomes richly empowered.