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Parents-Children and Vice Versa 

Joan Albert
© Joan Albert

Two books of photography, one by a mother, Joan Albert (Family Photographs), who photographed her children, and the other by a son, Jean-Jacques Gonzales (Conversation tardive), who recounts the life of his parents via their family photos, provide a glimpse of the complexity and intensity of parent-child relationships.

Joan Albert, a mother and photographer

Joan Albert
© Joan Albert
Joan Albert
© Joan Albert
Joan Albert
© Joan Albert

For the first time ever, a monograph has been devoted to the photographs of Joan Albert (1943-2012). American artist Sage Sohier, who edited this book titled Family Photographs, says: “I first met Joan in 1979, when I attended a course given by Nick Nixon at the Massachusetts College of Art, where Joan got her MFA. Joan was in her thirties and she was raising her two sons alone. Her youngest son, Jason, had died in an accident and – between her experience of motherhood and loss – she seemed infinitely older and wiser than me, someone from whom I could learn about life and photography. She loved her children more than anything, and she loved the ability of the 4×5 camera to beautifully render and preserve the moments of their rapidly changing lives.”

Joan Albert created her photographic body of work over a short period, spanning the 1970s to the early 1990s. Her intimate, black and white photographs of her growing sons are imbued with emotion and humor, portraying teenagers at the end of the last century. Eager to capture the intricacies of relationships in other families, she also photographed her friends, neighbors and strangers with their children.

Joan Albert
© Joan Albert
Joan Albert
© Joan Albert
Joan Albert
© Joan Albert

Jean-Jacques Gonzales and his parents’ photo collection

Jean-Jacques Gonzales’ father was an amateur photographer. He even introduced his son to shooting techniques and taught him how to use the Folding, a Voigtländer that Jean-Jacques Gonzales still uses to this day. After his parents died, the son found himself the custodian of their collection of black and white photos, “worn and damaged, with imperfections, in unusual formats.” What to do with these images? Jean-Jacques Gonzales undertook a project mixing photos and text to tell the story of a world twice disappeared, that of childhood, but also that of his native country, a war-torn Algeria that his family left forever when he was just eleven years old. In a moving story, we see the life of his family, twice exiled, first from Spain and then from Algeria. Love, exile, and absence are all themes explored in this sensitive work. “What is it about this photo that moves me so much?” muses the writer in front of one of his family images—a universal question when confronting traces of the past.

Family photographs by Joan Albert, published by Stanley Barker, 104 pages, 50€.

Conversation tardive by Jean-Jacques Gonzales, published L’Atelier contemporain, 240 pages, 25€.

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