Family Photography

There are differences between family, domestic photography and snapshots. Domestic photography can be more truthful and shows the family ‘behind the scenes’ whereas family photography can be perceived as staged and more positive. Snapshots are immediate pictures taken in the moment. They are not staged and probably represent the family the best. The construction of family through studio photography where the photo is staged, various backdrops and props are available are common for a long time. It replicates how we want to see ourselves and our family but it probably does not tell the truth.

“Snapshot photography, seemingly so open and so casual, operates by its own clearly delineated rules, and families across the Western world uses it to create a favourable reflection of domestic life. The stern gaze of the Victorians have been replaced by infallible smiles. Snapshots mirror life as it ought to be, or as what we would wish it to be. Carefully coded, they act as a talisman against the real.” (Williams, V. 1994)

Through gender control, the wife and mother used to become the family photographer. It was her job to create family albums with lots of happy memories. Through snapshots one wants to capture the moment as it is. It is not a staged situation but it does not always tell the whole truth. As Williams (1994) explains that it is a ‘talisman against the real’, there will be only snapshots of cheerful and content situations rather than plain everyday situations. Even though a snapshot is not staged it can distort our viewing. He claims that people will create a positive reflection of domestic life rather than showing snapshots of fights or crying family members in a family album. People seem to always want to be represented from their best sides and hide and forget ugly memories. They have no place in a family album.


Williams, V. (1994) Who’s Looking at the Family? Stiff Boards Publisher: Barbican Art Gallery: London.


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