Family Portrait

  • Ben William Harris
In 2011 I held a solo exhibition called ‘Family Portrait’. This exhibition was a fun and immersive interactive photography piece.

I have always been intrigued by family portraits from a very early age. The idea we can capture an ephemeral moment and incapsulate this, a part of our memory, has become vital to our culture today.

I feel this is an integral form of material culture, going through the ritual of displaying who is married, what clothing you wear, even to what race you are in this rare and exclusive event. The family portrait displays hierarchy and is something to be proud of, akin to the dated periodic paintings originally hanging in their castles.

I asked the public entering the exhibition to physically take part within my own family portrait. I recreated an old portrait taken of my family when I was in my early teens, including surroundings and family members.

People came in having no previous conception upon the photograph being taken, or the gravitas of the event at hand. Did they feel like they where taking something special away from me? Had the participant simply adjusted to this contemporary ceaseless photographic opportunity?

I wanted to challenge the value of contemporary family portraits, the use of photography in our generation and the onslaught of senseless photographs attacking our senses in the digital realm. From the obscene to the mundane, these photos are disjointed and have lost connection to their original purpose.

It was bizarre for me to see not only strangers sitting with my family, but for people to be experiencing a memory that was once solely just my own. I asked if people cared that they where in my family portrait, or of the values that my family held. Did they just relish this perpetual activity of fun?