I have been a family photographer for the past 70 years. My photos are of mothers and infants (where the family begins), children and caregivers, teenagers, adults in their various stages, and elders (principally, myself). For the last few years this work has focused on the lives of the twenty people who are currently members of my family.
In my work I aspire to capture pictorially the unique individuality of each family member. I tell them that as they live their lives it is as if they were writing an autobiographical novel and that it is visual hints of this distinct life story that I aspire to capture in my photographs. But I also tell them that even though many of my pictures are portraits of them as separate individuals, these portraits most often suggest a shared visual membership in a larger family-based world.
Thus, I aspire both to render each member a unique visual presence and at the same time to make visible certain elements that as family members each shares of a larger perceptual world. A family world infused with it’s own memories, myths, and metaphors —and, to use Walter Benjamin’s phrase, its own “optical unconscious.”
Note: Benjamin’s insight is that the camera “introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.” By “unconscious optics” Benjamin meant the totality of that substratum of behavioral patterns and practices, social codes, and rituals that comprises the usually visually unnoticed, and hence effectively invisible, form and fabric of everyday social action and interaction.