Week 6: Family Portraits

Family Portrait is actually a song! I’m kidding. To me, I have a very simple definition of a family portrait. A family portrait is an image that document a family at a particular moment of time or space. Talking about family portrait, I suddenly thought about a photo that I took when I was in London 3 years ago. It’s a photo that frames a photograph taken of the UK Royal family at an event. It seems its taken on a balcony or some sort. Anyway, you can identify the Queen, her husband, Prince Charles, his two sons, Harry and William. There are also 3 other individuals who is not familiar to me but it seems to be of close ties to be able to stand near to the Queen. While this is not an official family portrait, but I feel that it could be. It shows a particular moment of time and the absence of Princess Diana might tell us that this photo was taken after 1997.

London, United Kingdom. Taken on 14 September 2012

One famous family portrait that immediately comes into my mind is actually the Addams Family! I remember watching the film and the cartoon way back! But I always remember the family portrait they showed right before the show starts, in the introduction video. As you can see the in image below, they look very surreal and weird but thats what the show is. Looking at the family portrait, it seems they are very close as family.

The Addams Family, 1991

The Addams Family, 1991

And the next family portrait that comes into my mind was also from the Kardashian Family. I don’t watch reality tv but I do see some images of them in magazines or online. Anyway, this photo below is a good documentation of a particular moment of time. Compare the photo below and now, there is 2 divorced couples and another one broke up and ONE sex change. Caitlyn Jenner is what Bruce Jenner is now known as. I like how the documentation of celebrities family portraits changes over their time. To me even though these photos are not famous portraits, they are relevant in my lifetime.

The Kardashian Family

The Kardashian Family

But if you are talking about a really Famous family portrait, then we have to go all the way back, back to paintings. Despite many family portrait of royals and the rich, I actually couldn’t connect with those painting and choose one because I don’t feel comfortable talking about paintings that I am not familiar with. But I do have a famous family portrait in mind actually. In a form of a photography by Dorothea Lange.

Migrant Mother(1936) - Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother(1936) – Dorothea Lange

This photograph depict my definition of a family portrait. The woman, Florence Owens Thompson is seen with his two children facing behind getting comfort in their mother’s touch. This picture was made famous because it represented the Great Depression. She became an iconic image and figure soon after this photograph was publish. Even though this picture did not have all of the family member to be a ‘family’ family portrait, I still categorise this as one as it shows a very specific moment of time in the world which contains human emotion and a human subject. Below, is a photo taken 43 years after Migrant Mother. Again, this is also a family portrait.

Thompson (seated) with three of her daughters, (from l. to r.) Katherine, Ruby and Norma, in 1979—43 years after Migrant Mother

Thompson (seated) with three of her daughters, (from l. to r.) Katherine, Ruby and Norma, in 1979—43 years after Migrant Mother

But I feel that family portrait have changed through out the years in terms of being symbolic and representation. In family portraits painting we discuss in class, for example the Palmer Family in readings by Johann Zoffany. There are so many things we can talk about in terms of posture, eye contact, position of the body and more. However, looking at modern family portrait, there isn’t all those anymore. No more symbolic hidden meaning. Family Portrait was mean to be an important thing back then but now, its just another jpeg file I feel. If you compare the Kardashian Family portrait above and The Palmer Family, you can see a big difference in terms of composition and meaning as well.

The Sapiees, 2011

The Sapiees, 2011

So here’s my family portrait at a specific moment of my life, finishing my Basic Military Training, at the Passing Out Parade. As you can see, I am right smack in the middle however, I am slightly at the back compare to the rest of my family. This is to represent that I am in the centre of the attraction but however, not to forget that I won’t get through this phase without the support of my family. See, composition.

Anyway, this photo was taken by my girlfriend who was there with us as well. Even though there are the invention of the selfie stick, I am totally against using it for a family portrait. It’s either on a proper tripod or asking someone else to take it for us.

2 thoughts on “Week 6: Family Portraits

  1. Alicia

    It was nice reading this post 🙂 I like how you brought in the Addams Family, they’re a classic!

    Also, it’s interesting how we can tell the family members’ relationship with each other through a family portrait. It’s funny cause even though everyone could possibly be forced to be in a family photo, you can sometimes tell whether they’re close or not.

  2. Kamarule Post author

    Thank you Alicia! The Addams family are the classic, and guess what, I was just thinking, the Kardashian Family is like the modern Addams Family in real life! They’re bunch of crazy people!
    Yeah, being forced to be in a family photo is common nowadays as those kids thinks they are too cool to take photo but yeah, I agree, you can tell just by their body language and pose.

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