We are family!

The University of Salford’s Fashion Image Making and Styling students were set a brief earlier this year: document what “family” means to you, based on MoMA’s seminal Family of Man exhibition in 1955. Here are (six of) their interpretations.

Earlier this year, students of the University of Salford’s Fashion Image Making and Styling (FIMS) course were set a project brief to reimagine the seminal Family of Man exhibition. First exhibited at New York’s MoMA in 1955, it would go on to tour the world for eight years, showing in 88 venues across 37 countries.

Curated by photographer Edward Steichen, the exhibition set out to capture everyday family life across 68 countries featuring an ambitious 503 images by 273 photographers including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Diane Arbus. Interpretations included a tribe in an unknown part of Africa, a family farming in China, an elderly couple enjoying a park swing, and a wedding ceremony in the US

Since 1955, the family” isn’t so nuclear. 

Chosen, digital, extended, childless, LGBTQ families… whatever it may look like in 2020, the FIMS students produced a series of photos reflecting what family means to them. 

Gracie Brackstone shot her sister, Dias Pinnock-Morgan explored culture divides, Kyran Bates spied on his Accrington hometown through Google Maps. Meanwhile, Georgia Sutton celebrates her nan, Kara Selby sinks a Barbie head in water, and Hope Murray lensed a touching tribute to her sister, Lily. 

And there’s a chihuahua called Mitzy thrown in the mix. 

Gracie Brackstone, 19, from London

What is your photograph about?

My sister is the person in the image. I wanted to take photos of her dressing up how she wanted. I said she could use my clothes and makeup, we put on her favourite music (Little Mix, mainly) and we had a photoshoot. I noticed how influenced she is by the women in these videos and how she understood beauty ideals – she wanted to look perfect for it. 

What did you learn about yourself?

When the pictures of my sister were sent to print, the company refused – they’re a bit controversial. I think there are a lot of issues around children and rightly so as they need to be protected, but I think it’s sad that people read into things and could think it’s anything more than being an innocent photo shoot between two sisters.

What is family” all about for you?

My family life is different from the norm. My mum is an alcoholic and my dad lives with my grandparents so I haven’t lived in a typical family household for years. 

I [definitely] class my friends as family. Without them I would really struggle – there isn’t a day where I don’t talk to them and there isn’t anything that we wouldn’t do for each other, which is the same with an actual family. 

Are you currently isolating with your family? 

Since lockdown, I have had to come home from uni and I’m isolating with my dad, brother and my grandparents. I’m lucky to be with them and we all get along really well. I haven’t lived with my brother for years – it’s been nice because we’ve become close. 

Kyran Bates, 19, from Accrington

So, your tutors set out the project: Families. What were your thoughts?

I wanted to do something on my own family. My biological family is so precious to me – I felt that to create real emotion in my images I had to do it with the people that I loved the most.

What is your photograph about?

I got the idea from showing my friend where I lived and I love the look of Google Maps Street View. I started to go around my town screenshotting everything that reminded me of growing up in Accrington. This image documents the everyday lives of normal people in a working class town and that’s what I was trying to achieve with the project. 

What is family’ all about for you?

My family are the most loving people I’ve ever met – we’re all so close. My mum is so selfless and would really do anything to make anyone smile. Her first priority are her children. My little sister is my best friend – she’s so cute, funny and laughs at the things I do. My brothers just think I’m weird.

Georgia Stanley, 22, from Widnes

What is your photograph about?

I wanted to play around with the idea of clothes not being associated with a certain age, in the hope of banishing the phrase Mutton dressed as lamb” – this being the reason why I used my nan, Isabel, as my model. 

Are you currently isolating with your family? 

I’m currently isolating with my boyfriend and feeling really lucky that I get to spend this time with him. Lockdown has offered us a chance to see what it’d be like to live together. We’re just over a month in and we’re thriving!

What are your favourite things about them?

I love how I can be so open with my family and I’m always able to ask them for advice no matter what the situation is. They’re great at keeping secrets too, I would trust them with my life.

…and your least favourite?

How much they worry about me. They panic when I travel to London and go to festivals and stuff. I know it’s only because they care and want me to stay safe, though.

It’s a family affair! What tune is playing?

The Addams Family theme tune… does this count?

Spooky. But yes, it counts.

Kara Selby from Bicester, Oxfordshire

What is your photograph about?

I used the Barbie doll as a way of explaining the cold, disconnected feelings I had at the time – kind of like a voodoo doll. I used my washing up bowl in my uni kitchen, dropped it in and watched it melt into the bubbles. The head is me and I’m surrounded by friends and family that love me, but having this overwhelming sense of numbness amongst all of this happy, lovey bubbliness. 

What is family” all about for you?

Family is where you feel safe and somewhere you can be unapologetically yourself. My given family loves me and I love them but sometimes it’s not that simple. 

Are you currently isolating with your family?

I left halls and returned home to isolate with my mum and her partner. My mum and my dad are divorced, so choosing to isolate with my mum was hard. It’s kind of awkward having to choose what house to go to. But it’s been nice to spend more time with my mum. 

What are your favourite things about them?

They are supportive! I just wish I felt more comfortable around them and not so on edge all the time. I don’t know whether that’s me or them, I’m still trying to figure that one out…

It’s a family affair! What tune is playing?

Sister Sledge – We Are Family. It’s the OG tune!

Hope Murray, 20, from Macclesfield

So, your tutors set out the project: Families. What were your thoughts?

Me and my best mate Emily, also from the course, couldn’t stop talking about it! We were so excited about what we were going to create. I was excited to make something that was personal to me and my family so that we could all appreciate it together.

What is your photograph about?

My little sister Lily inspired me, just as she always does. She is soon to be 14 but she’s still the baby of the family to us. I learnt that she isn’t a downs syndrome girl, she is a young girl that has downs syndrome.

What is family” all about for you?

Everything. Because without my family and friends, who I class as my family, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My family life is challenging at times, as it is with any family. I live with my mum, dad and three younger sisters when I’m not living at uni. But we all have each other, which is what I think is most important.

Are you currently isolating with your family? 

Yes. It can be a lot of getting under each other’s skin, especially with five hormonal women under the same roof, as my dad would say.

What are your favourite things about them?

How we all have learnt to be there for each other in difficult times, and appreciate each other’s love more.

It’s a family affair! What tune is playing?

Family Tree by RAMZ.

Dias Otis Pinnock-Morgan, 20, from Manchester

So, your tutors set out the project: Families. What were your thoughts?

I think family at its core is unconditional love. It’s beyond words and a physical understanding. Relationships, however shattered, can be fixed with time. 

Since lockdown, has the meaning changed for you?

Throughout lockdown family” has changed because it forces people to stay connected through social media. I’ve been able to connect with family and friends I don’t often get to because everyone has busy schedules. We now have unlimited time to talk and keep each other sane. 

What are your favourite things about your family?

The food. No matter whose house I’m at, there will always be food as a form of love language. [And] the music – it runs in our blood and keeps us connected.

…and your least favourite?

Religion can sometimes dictate their values. It somewhat opposes my ideology being more nuanced, specifically within the black community. It can be hard to separate religion and culture which can be detrimental to how we walk through the world and the values we hold. I want my family to prepare the next generation in a path that helps our community. It’s time to change the narrative.

It’s a family affair! What tune is playing?

The Proud Family theme tune.


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