Die Amerikanerin Michele Crowe (Webseite) fotografierte Familien – an vielen Orten auf der Welt. Warum? “Ich wollte zu dem Gewöhnlichen und es Ungewöhnliche aussehen lassen”, sagt sie über den Beginn des Projektes. Über der Crowdfunding-Plattform Kickstarter konnte sie über 3000$ bekommen. Geld, das sie für die Publikation des Fotobuches zum Projekt benötigte. Für Augenblicklichter hat sie einige Fragen zu ihrem Familien-Projekt beantwortet.
Die deutsche Übersetzung kommt bald.
Why did you take photos of families and what is special about taking photos of families?
Michele Crowe: I started photographing families about 10 years ago in NY. At the moment I had recently graduated college and was just taking pictures of everything and anything. I was still refining my style but I already knew at the time that I wanted to take the ordinary and make it look extraordinary.. [pullquote]
I wanted to take the ordinary and make it look extraordinary.
[/pullquote] So at the time I was photographing my own family, a typical American Italian family in Long Island, NY, but I was making a point to capture the in between moments so the photos looked less posed and contrary; I was capturing the reality, babies crying, parents flailing their hands, things like that. Over time the project evolved into what it is now. Every home I went into made me realize that even though they all looked different and felt different, the love that the families gave off was the same regardless. I realized after a few years that this could be a good way to unite us as a human race. After that I made the decision to start photographing every type of family I could locally, and then finally globally.
You took photos of families in the US, Europe and India? Where briefly, what were the most striking differences in terms of family life?
Yes, Last year I spent about 4 months traveling around Europe and India (The photos in the US were taken over the past 10 years.) I guess I could say that I was able to photograph the most families on a whim in Puglia, Italy and Jodhpur, India. Those 2 cultures were very similar to me in the way that you can just walk up to someone on the street, tell them about your project, and a minute later they are inviting you into their home and offering you food and drink. It’s funny to me because on the surface the two cultures are so different. But underlying they were so similar in the way that their family comes first and they are very open with strangers. Most other places I needed to be introduced by a friend of a friend. In the USA and Poland people were a little bit more inquisitive and wanting to make sure you were trustworthy. BUT the truth of the matter is, for the most part I cannot recall a stark difference in family life based on country or continent. Some families are more traditional and some not, some were very warm and some were not as comfortable having a stranger in their home, but all in all I found each of these combinations in most of the places I went… and more than that, I found mostly warmth and cooperation everywhere I went. It reconfirmed my belief that at the end of the day we are all very much the same.
How did you get to know and meet the families?
Most families I acquire through word of mouth, friends of friends, that kind of thing. Some families I just meet when I’m on the road. Some families just see my work on the internet and blindly contact me. But most of them start with an email introduction, and then when we schedule a good day/time to shoot… I go over there and we sit down and talk first before we shoot. It’s nice to get comfortable and acquainted and be able to ask them questions about their families before we get started. But other times I am literally just walking around a town or village with my camera approaching strangers on the street about photographing families… I did that a lot in southern Italy and India; The results were astounding. I can’t believe how many people aloud me into their homes on a moments notice.
You said that “Photos will be composed in a manner unique to the family being photographed.” What do you mean by that? Can you give an example?
Some families just fall into a natural rhythm and I barely have to direct them at all, some are a little more self conscious and I will actually pose them and tell them what to do.
[/pullquote] By that I simply mean that I do not have a standard way I like to pose each family or anything like that. Each shoot is different and is approached on a case by case basis. The day of the shoot I go over, walk around, look at the home, figure out where I can shoot based on space, lighting, and what spots tell the family’s story best. I put the family in that spot, and just start shooting. I like the families to just do whatever feels natural to them once I have them together. Some families just fall into a natural rhythm and I barely have to direct them at all, some are a little more self conscious and I will actually pose them and tell them what to do. It’s all very individual based on the family. I want everyone to be as comfortable as possible so I don’t force anything; I go with the already existing vibe. It’s a lot of trouble shooting in a way and that’s very fun and challenging for me but also a learning experience each time.
I guess that is the reason why many of your pictures are composed but at the same time displaying the authenticity that can only be taken from real life. How long does it usually take to take the photo?
The time it takes to photograph each family varies from situation to situation. When I’m meeting people on the street sometimes i just go into their home right then and shoot for 5 minutes. Some shoots that are more planned out I can be there for an hour or even 2 hours. It depends on how many places in their home they have to shoot, how much we end up talking, and of course how much time they have to give.
The people say that they were at ease with the situation while you took the photos. How did you create this feeling? How did you make them feel comfortable in front the camera? Did it work with all people? Are there tips you have for other photographers with respect to that?
I tell them when they look good and then say, ‘Ok do whatever you want and pretend I’m not here.’ Sometimes at first they’ll look at you like you’re crazy but then once they start they really do forget I’m there, and when they see the finished product they understand.
[/pullquote] That’s a really good question and one that’s a little difficult to answer. Making people comfortable in my presence is something that is just kind of built into my DNA. It’s always been something that’s very important to me, even in my personal life, so it’s something I’m just doing naturally. I am also a small, young looking, friendly woman so people are naturally not intimidated by me 😉 But as far as any tips I can give, I would just say treat every person with an immense amount of respect. Remember that even though photoshoots are something that you are used to, most other people are not used to them. It is an interesting and unique experience for them and they are looking to you for guidance. The more you can explain to them about what you are doing the better. Don’t assume they already know everything that you know because they don’t, and they are going to want to know about your process. My methods are unorthodox, so even though I am not really posing them I am still telling them why I’m doing what I’m doing. I will tell them, ‘ok guys this is the location we are going to be shooting, I like this spot because it has all of your music equipment and it tells a story about your family, I also like the way the light is coming through this window. Now if you could please situate yourselves in this area however you feel comfortable’ That’s how I start and then we tweak it as we go. I tell them when they look good and then say, ‘Ok do whatever you want and pretend I’m not here.’ Sometimes at first they’ll look at you like you’re crazy but then once they start they really do forget I’m there, and when they see the finished product they understand.
In many pictures also the environment and background seems to characterize the people in the photos. In how far, do you think, is this an important addition for a portrait?
Extremely important, whenever there’s an option to shoot in a story telling area of their home that’s where I’m shooting.
What did you learn as a photographer during the project?
Through trouble shooting the different locations I learn more on a technical level how to shoot in different lighting and spacial circumstances, As far as the project is concerned, I learn more and more with each photoshoot how much every family in the world is the same as far as their love in concerned. Every shoot confirms for me how similar we all are at the end of the day. The look is different, the love vibes the same.
Weitere Familienfotos auf der Webseite zum Projekt.