Photographs of families are never straightforward, particularly when it’s your own family. When I tried to recall this photograph I got it all wrong – I remembered it in an oval frame with my father standing at the back and my little brother in the middle. I guess that’s how I remember my father – a strict man, the head of the household. But this was different from our usual holiday snapshots; this was a formal portrait of the five of us, professionally shot in a studio with lights against a grey backdrop.
My mum remembers the photograph as being her idea, gathering everyone after school and bringing us to the photographer’s studio in the seaside town where we grew up. She sits in the middle, smiling clear and direct, unlike the rest of us – glassy eyed behind our lenses. It must have been sometime in the mid 1970’s, my sister’s school badge might pin it down, but I do remember that I didn’t want to be there, a teenage resentment at the formality of the occasion, at being portrayed as part of the family unit. My sister and brother both have an arm around a parent, while I remain distant, on the edge of the group, keen to leave home.
35 years later, shortly before my father died, we set up the same shot again. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdx/5399807192/
The original photograph has been on display in its 9x9cm wooden frame in my parents’ front room since it was taken – until now. Visiting my mum this weekend I found it had gone, relegated to a shelf in the sideboard alongside albums and envelopes of family snapshots.