For a photographer, working with family can come with both benefits and challenges. On the one hand, you have a group of subjects known to you and who are (hopefully) comfortable enough around you that the camera won’t faze them. It’s an instant ticket to intimacy, if done right. On the other hand, this intimacy is of a personal nature, and focusing your work on the people closest to you can potentially change the dynamics and feelings of those involved, and therefore disrupt familial life.
To get an understanding of how it’s done well, CR speaks to four photographers who have documented their families for many years, which has led them to the creation of deeply personal work with universally felt themes. Here they tell us what they’ve learned from photographing their loved ones, how it’s informed their other projects, and what it feels like to put something so personal out into the world.
Photographer Juuso Westerlund is based in Helsinki, Finland and works on both commercial work and personal projects. His ongoing series Heartbeats evolved from the family album pictures he started taking the day his children were born into something more meaningful. “In the beginning the work sought to address questions that are fundamental to human experience, the answers to which we might have lost touch with as we’ve become older,” explains Westerlund. “All the pictures in the Heartbeats series are kind of like one single image. The pictures are like poems, visual poems which I cannot write. Poems about boyhood, longing, innocence, vulnerability, mortality.”