The Family Album

From my family album

From my family album

1899 – cameras become accessible, which made documenting family life easier.

Kodak marketed for this with the slogans – ‘you press the button, we’ll do the rest’ and ‘memories are made for this’. They encouraged family photography.

Family albums contain staged and natural image. They show the truth we want to portray for our family. They remind us of the happy times, telling us the stories of our past. We learn about past generations through the photographs. Parents tell their children about the people they once new, which they never got to know. The family album is viewed as an important tool in the reconstruction of a personal history, searching among its cast of characters for meaning and explanations. (Kuhn 1995)

The keeper of the album is reflected through the images in the album, they choose what goes in, and what doesn’t. Their views are present throughout it.

All albums contain the same elements – first bath, christening, holidays, first day at school, birthdays, and weddings. All the happy events. Sad, negative events, like death, don’t usually make it in to the album. Personally I wouldn’t want a relatives death shown in an album, I want to remember them as a happy, healthy person not on their deathbed.

Even professionally taken portraits, are ‘family’ shots. They represent the family and they are a personal portrayal of the people in the image. There is a connection between the photographer and the subjects, which is represented in the image. Professional photographs represent the families ‘ideal’. The family the parents want the world to see. Everyone dressed in his or her best clothes, and looking happy.  Personal and family photographs are composed specifically to portray the individual or the family in a way they wish to be seen. (Liz Wells)

The introduction of digital photography changed the idea of family albums. Images can be shown to the world, through social networking. This takes away from the ‘family’ album, as they are no longer presented to only a close-knit group of family, but to everyone. Some still have a personal album, which is just for them and their close family that is kept private.

Social networking for photography is a good and bad thing. It allows us to get our image out and visible to a much larger market. This in turn creates new opportunities that wouldn’t be otherwise available. On the negative side, images we may not want future employers to see are out there and available for everyone to see. This can have unforeseen consequences, as people will pre judge you off the images they find.

When an image becomes public the context changes. The images of missing children go from happy family shots in private to more sinister images with unhappy connotations when presented to the public. Even the happiest of family images can look ominous when placed in the wrong context.


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