Naked Nudist Family

Family Pictures  

Tips for the Photographer
If you are a photographer, your family pictures may be rather different to most. My wife always says I don't photograph the kind of things normal people do. I just offer to lend her a camera, though she has yet to take me up on it. My approach has always been simple - I photograph things that interest me. If I'm interested enough and do a good job, then they are likely to interest others too.

Situation & Family
Most family pictures are of people posing to have their picture taken, smiling or acting up for the camera, sometimes taking it more seriously. Occasionally it is convenient or necessary to pose people, but generally I've preferred to capture more spontaneous moments.

A posed image, but one in where the subject's attention has wandered. (© Peter Marshall, 1980)

You can get more interesting pictures by photographing people doing things - talking to each other, working or playing games. If you are working for publication, then you will want to be suggesting various activities, getting people to dress up and to play roles for you.

It may be possible to photography people you know while at work, but make sure if you do that you get permission from their employers to do so. A picture of your Uncle Alfred might not be of great interest or likely to sell, but there are far more possibilities if you can photograph him at work. Especially if, like my Uncle Alf, he has an interesting or unusual job; he was a commercial beekeeper, but unfortunately died before I learnt to use a camera.

Although I didn't photograph him, I was able to take pictures some years later of his widow - my aunt, also now long dead. These are pictures that have a great deal of interest for my family, but also I think touch on wider issues that make them of interest to others. As well as photographing her, I also took pictures that showed the house she had lived her married life in, full of the photographs and other memories. Like her, the house was a survivor from another age, still furnished in the same style as when they had moved in almost fifty years earlier. I've used a couple of these pictures as illustrations to this feature.


Another problem with family pictures can be nudity. As parents we get used to seeing our young children without clothes. Few of us see any real problem with photographing our own children at bath time or sprawling naked on a rug, but the authorities may. There have been a number of cases where processing lab staff have contacted police over images they have found. In the UK one television personality found herself being charged by the police and her name splashed over the papers, although the case was eventually dropped.
Sally Mann

Most photographers at least will be familiar with the fine work of Sally Mann, large-format photography made in collaboration with her young and often naked children. Again her work has raised criticism from many who have regarded it as exploitation of her children, although I find this difficult to take seriously. Certainly people who are acting improperly towards their offspring are unlikely to publish photographic evidence.

Mann's work is beautiful, and shows a great deal about the feelings and love in her family, both between her and her children and also in the relationships between them. It is hard to understand how anyone can find this offensive. It is powerful and moving work that gives a positive and enriching view of life.

However we do need to be aware that there are people around who take a more negative view, and also laws that we need to take notice of. There are also sick people who may view pictures of child nudity in different ways to us. It is an area where some caution is required as to what is shown and where.

Many other photographers have also worked with their own families. Among those whose work seems to me to be strongest are Emmett Gowin and Nick Waplington (see box, top right.)
Don't miss out

However I would feel I had missed an opportunity if I had not photographed the events in my life when my children were young - and a part of this are all the activities of parenthood, bathing, feeding, changing and so on. These are a part of my photographic archive, although there are probably some that I would want to keep private among friends and family for various reasons. Others I'm happy to show in public.

Nudity as shown in pictures such as this is seldom unacceptable, as neither the faces nor any genital areas of the subjects are shown. (© Peter Marshall, 1980)

Holiday times give us more time with friends and families, and the approach of a new year is traditionally a time for reflection and the making of resolutions.

People are more important than anything else in all our lives, and our families and friends surely the most important. It seems natural that they should have an important part in the work of any photographer. For me they have been the starting point for an exploration of photography that has led me out in many and varied directions.

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