From the advent of the Kodak Brownie to the camera phone of today, we’ve all used photography to capture memories, many of which are about our own families. Beyond the single snapshot, stories of family have been a mainstay of photography for a very long time too. In the past we’ve collected those stories in photo albums, bringing them out to share with family and friends and today we are putting them together in self-published books and on websites to share even with people who aren’t related to us at all.
In the current world of documentary work we are seeing a proliferation of stories about families being undertaken by both amateur and professional photographers. Chris Anderson and Phil Toledano are just two examples of moving documentaries of immediate family with insights into the relationships that exist and those that are developing. Countless other photographers are shooting stories of trials and tribulations as well as the triumphs that exist in these family relationships. In many ways the explosion of projects involving immediate family has become overwhelming. This age of self seems to have promoted the inward reflection at the expense of a broader view that looks for understanding of our own relationships in the world around us. I believe it is time to look outward at family relationships, to explore what is common, to see what is different, and to learn from others, a new definition of family.
In this issue, we selected stories by photographers who have explored this notion through families other than their own. They reveal in beautiful and moving ways how others create and relate to the bond we call “family”. Through their images, we feel the affection, trust and understanding in this complex relationship but we are also challenged to see something larger in relationships with the world. In Hilde Mesics Kleven’s story about Ingrid and Marte, we are looking beyond to the decisions people make about who to include and exclude from their families. Mallory Benedict poses a similar question with her story of Jia and Jemma but places it in the context of the community. We also bring you an interview with Jim Mortram, who through his long form documentary approach Small Town Inertia, explores many different families that make up a community. He looks with transparency at the dysfunctional and functional but always with respect and hope. Through his stories, he raises questions about our duty to each other through the most inclusive definition of family we know, that of human being.
When John MacPherson sent us his story of two families who come together as one to battle the sea and make a living, we knew we had to include it in this issue. His work is a deeper look into how these ties have significance to not only the economy but to the whole culture of a community. The idea of mutual goals in his story is also reflected in Brian Miller’s piece Tradición: Matanza where the belief in an extended family lives on through the tradition of sharing work and celebrations on a family ranch even when people no longer live on one.
We are also pleased bring you a piece on the gifted William Albert Allard. Last year members of the Rear Curtain family were delighted to sit down and have dinner with one of the best photographer-writers of our time. No one brings together words and pictures like William Allard and a personal conversation with him about his work will be a treasured memory for each of us. We can all learn much from his approach and his photographs and we invite you to join us at the table for that conversation.
Of course no issue of Rear Curtain is complete without the final page from our long time friend, Mark Krajnak. The ongoing story of Parker told through Mark’s words and pictures are the traditional sign off for all our issues.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Rear Curtain family for their hard work and dedication. All of us are working or have other commitments and it is a challenge to find the time to pull together each issue but somehow it always gets done. A family cobbled together by friends with a mutual interest can enrich our lives through common goals and responsibilities but nothing compares when they are stitched together with the bond of affection. We leave you with a glimpse from our family album and hope this issue opens up the meaning of family for everyone to explore and embrace.