Documentary Proposal Whitney Graham

A few years ago a popular clothing store came up with the very bold statement that their clothes were for "the modern family". Very intrigued by this campaign I reached for the catalogue and took it home to have a look. What I found was very disappointing and I personally did not feel that they lived up to their claim. Although their TV advert claimed to include families from all walks of life the families that they had interviewed were your very box standard, two parents and two kids, cookie-cutter family. Where was a family that represented my family and the other families that I know? Who represented the single mums, the same sex couples, the families with a phonebook of last names at the one address?

This highlighted to me that the definition of the "normal" family has changed. This concept of the nuclear family being the forefront of the ideal family is now an outdated concept. A new definition of normal is occurring. Even the new adaption of the nuclear family to a joint family still only includes extended members, such as grandparents or married couples, living under the one roof.

An example of the classic family portrait

A definition of Nuclear Family is that it is a "basic social unit". This is expressed on the Oxford Dictionary website as 'In traditional society, family stability is considered key for maintaining the stability of society as a whole, since the family is the smallest social unit of the society.' What I want to capture in my documentary is that this can be achieved without the "traditional" element and prove that this is an outdated concept.

My idea to document this is to find a minimum of 5 families that all differ on the traditional family scale. I will start with documenting my family, the family I grew up in and the family I have created for myself. This instantly highlights a contrast as my parents have created the pinnacle of traditional family life, married 30 plus years with a son and daughter and of course, the kennel club pedigree dog. However, my story of how my family formed is slightly different. I will also look at my Grandparents, who have been married for over 50 years, along with 3 other couples who veer off from the norm.

To start off each family I will take a classic style traditional family photo in the studio or, if being able to access the studio is unavailable to them, a family shot at their front door . I will keep everything the same in each portrait bar the family i.e. the lights, backdrop, camera settings or if it can't be the studio try to recreate this at their front door. I will then spend some time getting to know them and capture images of them throughout their day, something that helps the viewer to get to know them better. After learning about the family I will add an anecdote to each image to further develop their story. My main objective for the families I photograph would be to catch the love that is at the centre of each one.

I have been researching the work of American photographer Kirsten Lewis. She is world renowned for her work in candid family documentary with a wide and impressive portfolio. She spends a full day with her clients and captures all the aspects of their day with her trying her best to blend into the surroundings and not interfere with the client.

Candid family documentary

For my studio portraits I will need to select a background to use each time for any studio shots. I will need to decide on a lighting set up to use each time and consider the health and safety risks for shooting families with kids in the studio. For candid images I will take my Canon 7D along with a selection of lens to be able to capture more interesting images for a different perspective, for example using a fish eye lens.

Other health and safety factors I will need to consider are that I will be entering peoples homes. | will have to ensure that I keep my equipment close by and not in any walk ways or where it will become an inconvenience to them going about their day to day life or anything that will alter images. I will drive to all locations so will need to plan out my trips prior to setting off.


Matalan Campaign -

Kirsten Lewis -

Plan B

For my plan B I am hoping to document the selfie culture. It has become more and more obvious that you can not go anywhere without spotting someone taking a quick selfie of themselves. This can range from people doing so to have a quick check of their make up on the commute to work or standing in front of a famous monument. Over the next 3 months I will be visiting 3 different cities - Glasgow, Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

In order to achieve this I will need to set as side time in my visits to be dedicated to keeping my eyes alert for those taking selfies. In this project I hope to also highlight how having a small easy to use camera constantly in your pocket has changed day to day life. For example, it would have been considered ludicrous in the 90's to take a snap shot of your dinner or paper coffee cup because it has your name on it however, fast forward to 2017 and people are making a living from this. So I plan to incorporate both of these new lifestyles into my documentary.

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