Recently a friend of ours passed away, an elderly widow who was the mother of nine. It fell on me to deliver our gift of condolence to her home and as I stepped inside the front door, my eyes were immediately drawn to a living room wall where a large artistic portrait of the entire family was displayed. As I stood there studying it for several moments, the picture quietly said a lot, with considerable impact, about a relationship and how photography can enhance relationships.
It’s being a group portrait did not prevent it from being art. When you stop to think about it, there are a considerable number of classic art works done by the masters which are essentially group portraits. Take, for example, Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”—and there isn’t any question about their being art. So, I would have to say yes, the picture was an example of art. It had been produced with skill and taste, effectively employing the principles of good artistic composition. And the artistic aspect contributed much to the picture’s power in connection with the relationship portrayed.
By Emphasizing Ties, Being Together & Roots. The picture called attention to a group of people that was far more than an arbitrary one. The similarity of physical characteristics amongst them clearly stated, “This is a family.” And the attitude reflected in their faces, one of gladness at all of them being together, strongly conveyed the idea that they not only recognized but also embraced the fact of being a family. And the manner of dress and deportment on the part of the parents in the picture gave some indication about the family’s European roots and culture. All of this was accentuated by an interesting and informal balance within the arrangement, with the parents as a primary focal point.
By Showing Emotion & Feelings Shared. There was a warmth that pervaded the picture. The people shown obviously had strong, positive feelings for each other. You could see the love, affection, and pride in their faces. The photographer that took the portrait clearly knew about the importance of expressive qualities in an artistic composition and knew how to include it with a telling effect.
By Revealing Times, Occasions & Background Shared. Since everyone in the portrait was an adult, the picture visually implied that they must have, at least while growing up, spent a good deal of time around each other, and as a result were comfortable together. And the portrait itself served as an indication of a family spirit that made them all readily disposed to come together, to share special times and places together. As a group, they were a made-to-order subject/theme which is the primary principle behind any work of art and in this picture the subject/theme was clearly manifest.
The picture was much more than simply a document that portrayed the faces of a family. Each time the parents looked at it they must have been reminded, and moved, about what their life together really meant. When the children dropped by and viewed it from time to time, their mental focus was probably brought back, if only momentarily, to where they came from. And the child who inherits that group portrait almost certainly will be displaying it prominently on a wall somewhere in his/her home and with each look at it experience a reminder of the family relationship for years to come. While displayed in the parent’s home it has spoken to every visitor that came into the home about close kinship, strong bonds, definite values, good times together and origins. And it also, no doubt, prompted many conversations with the visitors that only served to further enhance their perceptions and appreciation for the relationship. I know that it definitely enhanced my perceptions of, and respect for, the family. The picture acted as a visual stamp of validation for the family’s relationship.
Time can pass by quickly and circumstances can change drastically. The opportunities to appreciate and enjoy relationships or special occasions spent together can soon disappear, with little if any trace left behind, if we’re not careful. It is a sad but true fact that when many people pass on, the only things they leave behind for their dear ones to reflect on are some memories or a few hastily taken, fuzzy snapshots of themselves. How much better to make, and take, the time to get some quality artistic images made that are a pleasure to look at and enhance, both for ourselves and those that really matter to us as well, the meaningful relationships we’ve had. Here are just a few more of our numerous relationships to be kept in mind, which can be beautifully enhanced by artistic imagery:
About the Author:
John Maxymuik has written a series of articles, “Art Imagery Can…” This is the last in the series, and it cites “Kinds Of Places & Scenes, Seasons & Times, Things, Special To Us”. To view a selection of such kinds of imagery please visit his art photo site at ambienceimages dot net. And also thanks to Picture/Correct for their posting this article.
Here are more photos in about this subject: