This is one of my favourite Strand photographs. It became even more special when my mentor and friend let me hold his vintage print of this image and I got to really look at it for a long time. He wrote to Strand back in the 70s and developed a bit of a correspondence with him. He asked to buy a print and Strand sold him an 8X10 of The Family at Luzzero for $500.
My friend said the negative was a 5X7. There is even some written notes on the back of the print by Strand.
It's true, I don't do group shots, where you have to orchestrate people. Though I've seen a lot, and even been in them, and on the whole it seems to me they are the kind of shots where often a record of everybody present is of prime importance. In small groups you can get sometimes get a relaxed and intimate atmosphere in large groups it gets harder, and is not usually the prime purpose.
Sometimes the orchestration can be taken to extreme, though, in large groups, and is an obvious part of the photo (does anyone know that photo of all the chefs, sitting as if for 'The Last Supper' - I forget the photographer just now, but it is a truly masterful combination of 'set-up' and within it, spontaneity. I don't know how many shots it took to get it).
And surely, anyway, the intent of this photograph is not the same as for example, a wedding, or even a family social event.
But, all that aside, this photograph has definitely grown on me, though I still have an area of reservation about it. As it was unfamiliar to me, I obviously haven't 'lived with' it for a slong as many people here. Certainly the strength and cohesion of the family does come across through the powerful presences of it's members (which may have tended to carry the day anyway, whatever the poses) though by that I don't wish to demean the imput of Strand because I've always admired what I've seen of his work very much. I think if I hadn't been given the information that it had been heavily orchestrated then I may not have interpreted some of the body-language as posed and a bit 'wooden', but rather as a bit 'self-conscious' which is not the same and can say something about the character of the person.
I am pretty confident that he arranged everything, even directing the subjects where to look. Strand had been invloved in making films since working with Charles Sheeler on his movie Manhatta in 1921. He produced, directed and was cameraman on several films either for his own film company (Frontier Films) or working for the FSA.
Shooting a film requires a meticulous attention to detail to get the shot right.
I think those years of experience are evident in this photogaph.
I always get a feeling of push and pull in the image. A family pulled or kept together my the mother but at the same time straining to be seperate.
I think Don's comments fit with the idea of Strand not just as a photographer but also as an experienced director and film maker.