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This Family


I recently picked up a second hand copy of The Family of Man, first published in 1955 for The Museum of Modern Art, New York. I first came across this amazing book in high school, where it was handed to me by a teacher in the hope I would learn and be inspired. I was 15 at the time, and the concept of this book completely escaped me. I looked at the collection of black and white photographs from another era, at the faces of this family I am part of, and it all slipped by me without a second thought. My attention was focused on other “more important” things… like the boys next to me in the darkroom.

Side story: I see so many amazing and talented young photographers these days, there are kids out there who have filled me with inspiration and left me wondering what the hell I was doing at the same age. Oh that’s right, I was skipping class, surfing, working on my tan and pretending there was no time but the right now.

The second time I came across this amazing book, it had my full attention. Six months ago, I jumped on a plane and crossed the Pacific to meet my best friend for the first time. I think it was my first day in Berkeley when Leah placed her favorite photography book in my hands, and we finally sat on the couch together to share our thoughts and inspirations in person. I could say that this book had a profound effect on the way I approached photography from that moment onwards, but that’s not really true. It was Leah’s interpretation of the book, seeing through her eyes and with her inspiration and approach to photography pushing me that was truly effecting. I found myself wandering the streets of San Francisco, and taking photos with a brand new perspective. For the first time, I was really seeing this Family of Man, the women, men and children around me, and turning my lens on them with fresh inspiration.

Ever since then, this book has held a place in the back of my mind, and finally adding it to my collection has been a much needed reminder of that flood of inspiration six months ago, and of the photography path I’d like to continue down.

It now sits on my bedside table, and I often pick it up before drifting off to sleep. Every time I do, I find something new, an expression, a gaze, a feeling. Here are a few favorites….

U.S.A Elliott Erwitt, Magnum

U.S.A Paul Himmel

U.S.A Russell Lee

U.S.A Jerry Cooke, Life

A book for every photographer’s bedside table I think.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/12/2009 18:03

    These are just wonderful… So powerful and moving!
    Thanks for sharing…

  2. 10/12/2009 08:29

    That top photograph speaks a thousand words. Just beautiful.

  3. 10/12/2009 09:21

    The best photography book ever. Really. xox

  4. 10/12/2009 15:29

    Lovely Ash, you are always teaching me things i didn’t know about great photogrpahy!

  5. Heidi permalink
    11/12/2009 10:03

    You’ve inspired me, Ash. Big Time.

  6. 11/12/2009 10:16

    I feel so proud right now I can’t put it into words.

    Thank you. For being everything that you are.

    I love you, Ashley. So much.

  7. 11/12/2009 19:30

    Such inspiring words and images. Beautiful.

  8. 23/12/2009 16:04

    those are amazing photos. i’ll have to look at getting that book though i am not a photographer. i also just want to say i enjoy your etsy shop. your photos are such a refreshing look at life.

  9. 24/12/2009 03:31

    Stunning and inspiring. I can see why you are so captivated.

  10. 07/01/2010 17:25

    i simply must get that book asap. can’t believe i own it yet…

    one of my absolute favourites is “family – photographers photograph their families” (phaidon). so wonderful.

  11. Kari B. permalink
    27/02/2012 03:11

    Hi, I was wondering–do you know anything about the Jerry Cooke photo of the girl on the bench???? Where it was taken, who she is? Context?
    Thank you so much for getting back to me.

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