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View Full Version : Help me to negotiate a tricky family portrait issue



perkeleellinen
09-14-2010, 03:37 AM
Next year my Grandfather turns 90, two years later my Grandmother will turn 90. In between these two big events they will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. I'm going to produce a photo book of informal family portraits to present to them - probably on their anniversary. I'm going to shoot them in colour and print them myself, possibly I'll attempt to bind the prints or at least pay someone to do that.

I have an issue which threatens to de-rail all of this.

Last year one of my cousins split from his long-term partner (they were unmarried but had been together for over ten years and had two kids) and married another woman within a few months. It was messy and for a while there was a restraining order to stop him and his new wife from seeing the kids - don't know why but the subject is tricky in our family (lots of shaking of heads, mutterings about it all being so sad, etc).

How can I deal with this? I have a situation where my cousin's wife is a somewhat taboo subject, his kids cannot be with her and their mother is hostile to him and is sort of still a family member but not quite (if you get my meaning).

I wanted to do group and individual pictures and throw the best into a nice collection of generally fun snaps. I can shoot my cousin with his wife - but what of his kids? I can't do a group with all of them. Should I include his ex partner? I think I'll be damned if I do and damned if I don't. Should I shoot the kids by themselves and leave out their mother?

These questions have been dogging me for weeks and I'm starting to wonder if it's even worth embarking on this project such is the risk of being caught in the choppy waters of family fallouts.

Any ideas appreciated!

2F/2F
09-14-2010, 04:05 AM
IMHO, if they have problems, they can figure them out. It is not your responsibility, nor should it be. Just tell them what you want to do, and let them decide what to do about the pix. You are trying to do something nice for the family. Just do the best you can without getting caught up in all the b.s. I am sure your efforts will be appreciated regardless of the details.

Jesper
09-14-2010, 04:08 AM
I understand your predicament, and of course it will be very hard to get a group picture, but what you are doing is not something for the moment but an album for time to come.
I would put everyone in the album, but perhaps on different pages if it is that sensitive. Your album is for future generations, and old feuds will be history by then.

Marco B
09-14-2010, 05:21 AM
Go digital, and do head transplants :p where necessary, as I saw done on the front cover photo in a recent documentary about the production of the "all important" September issue of Vogue...

That way, you'll be avoiding the hassle... :blink:

On a more serious note: Personally, I think most people make the best photos when they feel comfortable with a situation, and I certainly do. So, if you're not feeling good about the whole thing, than abandoning the project might not be a bad thing. Hire an outside professional to do the job. At least he will not be burdened with all the personal feelings you have, and is less likely to get "blamed" if attempting to put people together that don't get on well...

Rick A
09-14-2010, 05:40 AM
Go ahead and approach the parties and explain your plan, be sincere but make it clear you are willing to accomodate whatever they stipulate to. Dont forget to offer portraits of the kids to the mother(gratis, of course). You could offer to photo the kids seperatly and give them their own page in the album. It wouldn't hurt to offer copies of all the family to them as well, as it is important for the children to know who their family is, and be able to put faces with names.

36cm2
09-14-2010, 08:09 AM
I'm with 2F and ralnphot.

TheFlyingCamera
09-14-2010, 08:21 AM
I say photograph the father of the children with the father, if he's now allowed to be with the kids again. then a separate photo of the mother with the children, then the father with the new wife, no kids. Don't put the exes together in the same photo, as they may still want to tear each others' eyes out.

jnanian
09-14-2010, 08:55 AM
I'm with 2F and ralnphot.

x2

lns
09-14-2010, 10:52 AM
I'd not be confident that you can leave it up to the warring parties to solve this on their own. It sounds like feelings are too raw.

Therefore, I'd take a picture of your cousin and his children, and put that in the book. Then a picture of the cousin and his wife, and give that to them. Then a picture of the children, with or without their mother, as she chooses, and give that to their mother. But I like taking pictures. :)

-Laura

wclark5179
09-14-2010, 11:19 AM
Too bad things like this get in the way of family. When those lovely folks who are celebrating 70 years together are dead and gone and no photographs are made what will everyone have? Hard feeling to remember? I would try to do all the groups you mention. Sometimes grownups can act like children. If you can't make pictures of them together, get them separately. You can scan the negs and put the separate people/groups together in photoshop. If you're not comfortable gettting this task accomplished, serving as a referee, find someone to help you; you may need a bad cop and a good cop to get things in order. I've had a few of these but I have worked them out.

perkeleellinen
09-14-2010, 02:35 PM
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I think I'm going to have a chat with my Uncle (my cousin's dad) as he's a straight talking practical sort of chap who'll be good to enlist in working out the best groupings and sittings. He's also quite charismatic with a great talent for smoothing things out.

2F/2F
09-14-2010, 02:36 PM
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I think I'm going to have a chat with my Uncle (my cousin's dad) as he's a straight talking practical sort of chap who'll be good to enlist in working out the best groupings and sittings. He's also quite charismatic with a great talent for smoothing things out.

Perfect. There you go.

Good luck. Have fun.

Worker 11811
09-14-2010, 03:26 PM
I'm with the others. This is a documentation of family history not a squabble between warring factions.

I think there are so many families who don't have good photos of all their members together it borders on criminal.

One's identity is intimately tied up in who his relatives are. All your aunts and uncles and grandparents, your brothers and sisters, your cousins and your mother and father are all the people who made you who you are. It's a shame when we don't have pictures of them to see after they are gone.

My personal belief is that people should be able to suck it up and swallow their pride long enough to sit down for a family portrait. They can sit on opposite sides if they want to.

As the others say, it's not your responsibility to be the go-between. You should do the project the way you see fit and, if others can't play nice long enough to sit still for a picture that's their problem, not yours.

Maybe you can get photos of the different people separately and include them in the album as individual photos.

Talk it over with your uncle and the others. That's the best course of action. But I would gently make it known that if somebody wants to be left out of the family album it will be their own loss.

I wouldn't want to be the one missing from the family album when future generations of kids ask, "Who was Uncle Randy?"

tkamiya
09-14-2010, 03:42 PM
Not being completely foreign to this type of situation, I can understand your predicament. If you do the "wrong thing", it can cause a lot of heart ache and potentially make already bad situations even worse. There is almost no ways to make everyone happy as contradicting expectations and conditions are the source of this conflict in the first place.

If it is a large group (and sound like it will be), you could potentially place which ever the one who is a target of most animosity on one extreme side and the rest on the other corner, having everyone else act as a buffer. You could also put the current couple on one side, the other woman on the other side, and kids in the middle. Those are just ideas but these too can be a source of further conflict.

I think, the best you could do is to talk to the party directly involved and find the least offensive way, telling them, if you can't find an agreement all of them will be out of the photos and the grand parents won't want that.

I'm sorry this type of things happen but they do - more often than some would believe. Sadly though, the images you create will have to be the reminder of these issues and there is no ways to just ignore it.

fotch
09-14-2010, 04:30 PM
Shoot them.


TheFlyingCamera
I say photograph the father of the children with the father, if he's now allowed to be with the kids again. then a separate photo of the mother with the children, then the father with the new wife, no kids. Don't put the exes together in the same photo, as they may still want to tear each others' eyes out.

Sirius Glass
09-15-2010, 08:05 PM
IMHO, if they have problems, they can figure them out. It is not your responsibility, nor should it be. Just tell them what you want to do, and let them decide what to do about the pix. You are trying to do something nice for the family. Just do the best you can without getting caught up in all the b.s. I am sure your efforts will be appreciated regardless of the details.

What he and other said. There is nothing wrong with being straight forward. If necessary shoot photographs of the MIAs separately and put them in the album. After all, in spite of the hard feelings, the MIAs would be listed in an genealogy.

Steve

EASmithV
03-10-2013, 05:08 AM
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