10 Portraits That Prove There Is No Such Thing As A ‘Normal’ Family

Family matters.

by Jonathan Stern
Originally Published: 
© 2016 John Clang

When you were a kid, your folks probably dragged you down to the mall every year to get the family portrait. You guys and your matching sweaters may have even ended up as a Reddit meme (congrats). But, for Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, the concept of family photography was more than just fake smiles and clothes you don’t wear in real life. It was getting the candid, complicated, and sometimes surreal moments that go beyond anything Sears can produce.

In Family Photography Now, more than 40 photographers from around the world shot their families (and other people’s) in an effort to express what this togetherness means. From Alix Smith’s photos of same-sex families around America, to Sian Davey’s portraits of her daughter with Down’s Syndrome, to Patrick Willocq’s stunningly constructed shots of first-time Congolese mothers, below are just a few samples from this remarkable photo series.

© 2016 Alix Smith

Fischer, Texas. 2010. Family poses during a wedding rehearsal.

© 2016 Sian Davey

“On reflection I saw that Alice was feeling my rejection of her and that caused me further pain. I saw that the responsibility lay with me; I had to dig deep into my own prejudices and shine a light on them. The result was that as my fear dissolved I fell in love with my daughter. We all did.” – Sian Davey

© 2016 John Clang

“This work documents our condition of new wave diaspora: Singaporean families of various races and ethnicities grappling with the same predicament of separation through time and space.” – John Clang

© 2016 Patrick Willocq

“I lived a very happy childhood in the Congo and fell in love with the country and people. That is most probably why my pictures are what they are.” – Patrick Willocq

© 2016 David Magnusson

“I wanted to create portraits so beautiful that the girls and their fathers could be proud of the pictures in the same way they are proud of their decisions.” – David Magnusson, on his series of portraits about the Purity movement

© 2016 Pat Pope

“The idea is to get as far away from the conventional high-street family portrait as possible. I don’t let people smile. I tell them to look blank.” — Pat Pope

© 2016 Fan Shi San

“Nearly every child born in urban China after 1980, myself included, is an only child. We are the loneliest generation in China’s history. Many of us entertained ourselves by integrating after-egos into our lives as a substitute for the siblings we never had. I created an imaginary friend. I even gave him a name: ‘Tree’.” – Fan Shi San

© 2016 Alain Laboile

“My photography is like a daily diary. I don’t have any influences, and I try to stay away from photographic culture.” – Alain Laboile

© 2016 Colin Gray

(Grey made early works, such as “The Lottery” (1995) during trip back home to visit his parents in the northern British city of Hull. Blending childhood memories with suburban fantasies, he staged elaborate tableaux inside the old family home.) “We laughed a lot making these works. It was a very collaborative process.” – Colin Gray

© 2016 Isadora Kosofsky

(David’s fiancee Felicia, with their 10-month-old daughter Lilly, communicating through video visitation.) “I began to envision a photography project about young people in prison. After 3 years of submitting requests, at the age of 18, I was granted permission to photograph in a few juvenile detention facilities.” – Isadora Kosofsky

Courtesy Thames & Hudson

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