Portraits of Home: the family album

This project is a documentation of the people, places and experiences that make us who we are (an assignment for my photography student at the end of our first quarter). It brings into question the very essence of what home means to each of us, and explores the importance of family, history, tradition, and place in forming the foundations of our lives.

For me, it was the perfect opportunity to embark on a long-term family history project I've been thinking about for months.

My family has always kept photo albums, on both my mom and my dad's side. It used to be a normal part of life to keep physical copies of photos, newspaper clips and cards. The internet didn't exist yet, and every photo you took needed to be developed and printed professionally (and it wasn't always cheap). My mom and my grandma Marie together saved hundreds of photographs documenting their lives; the entire extended family's collections amount to thousands of photos, and serves as an extensive documentation of life and the changing times in a small logging town in the heart of Washington. The photos from my dad's side of the family tell a different story: that of a never-stay-in-the-same-place family spread all over the States, who came together each year in the summer to work in the woods and play in the lakes and spend time together.

The following images are a selection of scans of photographs taken and saved by my mom, dad and grandmother Valeria (plus a few classics from my lifetime). It is intended as a portrait of home not only for me and my sister, but also our parents and extended family. As a whole, it documents the experiences of those who came before me, who made possible what I know as my life today.

This selection is only the beginning of a greater historical project regarding the extensive photographic documentation that exists of American families throughout the 20th Century, made possible by the prominence of the family photo album, and what it means in light of the major technological advances into the digital age that have made the practice of keeping physical photographs nearly extinct.

The moment it all began. Olympia, Washington c. 2000

The Dalthorp family. American Midwest c. 1920

Yours truly. <3 Olympia, Washington c. 1997

Main Street. Morton, Washington c. 1971

My mom in Europe, shortly after graduating from the University. c. 1975

Grandpa Bennett and partner Ida. Morton, Washington c. 1975

Mother & Daughter photos (taken every few years). Morton, Washington c. 1971

Summertime fun in the Pacific Northwest. c. 1975

The first thing you do when you arrive back home at the lake: dive in. Brimson, Minnesota, c. 1965

My dad's old cabin. Brimson, Minnesota c. 1965

"Pony Boy" (Grandpa Gene). Morton, Washington c. 1950

Another Amburgy family gathering. Morton, Washington c. 1970

Taken only a few years after my mom had written in one of her photo albums that the only PNW outdoor sport she didn't like was skiing. Somewhere in the Western Washington Cascade Mountains c. 1980