Some of the biggest names in photography exhibit their family jewels at the MEP.
Family is sacred and is often the first thing we capture on camera. And the Maison Européene de la Photographie is exhibiting candid family shots taken by many eminent artists. For example, Harry Callahan’s devotion for his wife Eleanor; who he photographed naked from all angles in magnificent chiaroscuro. Richard Avedon’s admiration for his father when he was suffering from cancer, is expressed in a series of seven modest and respectful portraits which nevertheless caused a scandal when they were exhibited for the first time at MoMA in 1974.
Illustrated too are the feverish emotions that can flare up in family life, for example the obsession with aging, seen in Nicholas Nixon’s ‘The Brown Sister’, who photographed his wife Bebe and her three younger sisters every year since 1975. But the most poignant pictorial testimony is Robert Frank's, who captured the serenity of an American family sleeping in their car, then produced snapshots of their lives with no logical order, including a divorce and the death of their two children.
One complaint: woman may be the unfailing muse, but the sole female photographer here is Nan Goldin, with the portrait of her embracing parents. This seems a real shame, especially when such excellent female photographers have captured the essence of familial love - Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier or Annie Leibovitz.
Whether their aim is to construct some form of tribal heritage or simply immortalise daily life, these photographs touch us deeply. They speak to a universal audience, of a topic that we know well: human ties, of both the blood and the heart.
TRANSLATION: MEGAN CARNEGIE