Family Photography Response Q’s
1) What is your family tradition with photography? What did you parents do when you were small? How were photos made, collected, disseminated, shared? How was it when your parents were children?
Each member of my family has their own family album full of pictures. It is neat to compare albums and look through them individually because it shows how much I’ve grown up and changed over the years. My parents and family took pictures of me all the time when I was younger. During that time they were all on film point and shoot cameras, so they have that glossy-developed-at-the-store feel to them but all the pictures are of varying sizes or formats (I guess they used different type of cameras or film). My parents’ albums are very different from mine and my brother’s and sister’s. My parents are much older than me (turning 60 whoa!). Their photos are almost all in black and white. There are not many baby pictures (as growing up in the 50’s in Korea probably did not have the most access to photography), but there are more college ones from the early 70’s. They have a more posed and treasured feel, rather than the crazy candid pictures of the kids. The photos are a lot smaller. I remember asking my mom one day as a child why they were smaller than the standard 4×6 photos, and she replied that during that time the smaller format was the standard and the growing trend became larger and larger. I like how intimate the photos feel even if the people in them look posed or serious. Since they are so old and some are browning or worn on the edges, it feels like the photos become this object. My parents have many pictures of them together when they first met. My mother had long hair and was stylish and my father was slender and handsome. These photos not only show lineage and culture, but also the time period.
2) Was photography valued in your family? Who took most control over it? What do you think his/her main concerns were with the family photography?
Both of my parents were the photographer when I was a child. They would trade off taking pictures with me. Usually my mother did it a little more though. She is the one who created all the photo albums.When I was around 3-4 years old half of my family was in America, while the other half was still in Korea. We would send back videos and photos to keep in touch and show how much I’ve grown. My mother always says how sad she feels when she thinks about how we were separated for awhile and I would cry to her on the phone that I missed her. I think she thought it was important to document memories and stages in my life, especially whenever family is reunited. One time as a little child I went missing and my family went into a panic frenzy trying to find me. They made announcements all around the neighborhood and were worried sick that I had been kidnapped. When they finally found me they saw me in a phone booth pretending to have a conversation on the phone. They were relieved. My mother for some reason wanted to take pictures of me in the phone booth playing around. I have no memory of this, just the photos and I still hear about the story from time to time. It is interesting how photos create memories for the future.
3) How do you feel now about your old family photographs?
Some of them are embarrassing. Some of them are so adorable. But they are all very precious to me and my family because we look through them together every once in a while when we gather (now that we live in different parts of the world yet again, it has become more rare). The photos remind me of memories, stories, and the meaning of family…which is that we are there for each other no matter what. One of the first memories I remember is when I was one and it was my birthday. There was a beautiful chocolate cake and I was very eager to cut it myself (it is my birthday and my cake after all). But being such a small child they wouldn’t let me so I started to cry. Looking through my family photo album I saw pictures from my first birthday and in some I am crying and in others I look happy with a plastic knife in my hand. I told my mom the story of my memory and she said, “So that’s why you were crying! No one could figure it out.” Some people may think I was too young to remember such a thing and that I only know it from the photos and stories. Sure, the photos may have jogged some memories but in this case I found the pictures after I already knew the story from myself. Memories are really important to me and the photos are connected to that, so the family photographs are extremely valuable.
4) What does your family do now? How has this changed since you were small? Since your parents were small?
Unfortunately, most of my family lives in different parts of the world. Even when we reunite no one is taking pictures on film and taking it to get prints anymore. Now that I am older and the photography major, I am the one to take the most pictures and they are digital. We share them but don’t print or add them to our albums. I would like to start that old habit again, but it is difficult when we are not around each other anyways. Maybe when I start my own family down the road I will do it.
5) What do you think the function of family photography is in general? For your family specifically? For you?
Family photography is documenting family life. For my family it is about showing the timeline of a family member, from certain important events in one life to candid everyday moments. Sometimes it is to show to extended families and friends. For me it creates and captures memories.
6) How does digital dissemination of family photographs change the way they function? Does this present any problems that you can see? Do you have personal or political concerns?
The digital era has changed family photographs in so many ways. It is less physical and more virtual. Which is more permanent, I am not entirely sure. It is easier to share and access digital photos now, but I feel a potential problem is that they are not valued as much. It sort of makes it less personal as well. Another potential problem is the photoshopped/correction look. It takes away the things that make certain pictures or moments special. Everyone wants that “picture perfect” look, and that is just a façade.
My High School Graduation
Family Reunion in Colorado
My dad just got out of a retreat.
Visiting my parents in Korea. My dad bought me ice cream. We were really happy that day.