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July 8, 2010

One interesting question that I sometimes ask photographers is 'If you could photograph anywhere or anything, what would it be? ' The answer in my mind has always been different from the others, I would have loved to have free reign to photograph a town or a family, particularly the everyday happenings and the changes that gradually occur over time. Of course, it would help to be invisible to do that such a thing. What family would tolerate your camera in their face all the time? My family certainly doesn't tolerate my cameras very well anymore.

But as it happens, I ran across a book where a photographer was able to live out this dream. I just finished the wonderful book titled 'An American Family, Three Decades with the McGarveys'. This is a Kentucky family that lives just a few hours from here, in the central part of the state. The book is a collection of photographs with short defining captions that document the beginning of a young family and ends with the children being grown with successful jobs. These are not your usual family snapshots, however.

The photography project has been the life's work of professional photographer Pam Spaulding who began the series in the latter part of the 1970s for the Louisville newspaper The Courier Journal. The intention was to document the pregnancy and first year of life for a young family with a newborn child. She didn't initially intend a book publication and she thought the photography would cease with the first birthday of the child. After the final installment was published in the newspaper, she kept up the photography with the intention of donating the photos to the local university as a historical documentation project.

The family was very accepting of the camera and the photos show that the kids grew up accepting that it is commonplace to have Pam snapping photographs in the background.

One humorous quote by the daughter-in-law summed up the whole book: 'We had just started dating, maybe a month, and were still in that phase where you're getting to know each other. I don't know how we got on the subject, but I do remember him telling me, 'We have a woman that follows my family around and takes pictures.' And I said 'What?'

Here's the link to Amazon for the book. Right now, it is listed as a bargain book for about $14 and is hardcover with about 225 pages or so. All the photographs are black and white and are very nice quality.