documentary photography

Photographers and Their Families

Exhibition Review Photographers and Their Families

On view at The National Portrait Gallery a collection of work by varying photographers showcases their artistic take on documenting their own family. The exhibit though small and spread out into three rooms shows the different styles each photographer took in representing their families. Whether it was Muriel Hasbun’s overlapping negatives of her families layered history that makes up her own identity, or Elaine O’Neil’s photographs of herself and her daughter each photographer took an original approach that made a mixed and rich exhibit.

One series that struck me the most was Virginia Beahan’s six photographs in which she photographed her elderly mother who was suffering from dementia. It was not apparent at first that “Grams” as Beahan calls her was sick because these images were very quite but full of moments shared between the two. They were done gracefully and with respect- you could immediately tell that she cared deeply for Grams. I was originally drawn to the photographs by Beahan because of the images I took while visiting my grandmother who had recently passed.  Her images brought back similar serene memories that I experienced with my grandmother and choose not to overlook.

The exhibit inspires me as I continue to photograph my own family for my directed studies class here at Corcoran. At the end of the semester I will have created a print book format and online book with audio and video, a family photo album of sorts. This exhibit helped me to determine how I would approach both print and online format of the book what would be different in each of these different mediums, while also giving me ideas as other ways of approaching it.


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