Thomas Struth

Family Life

29 Nov 2008 - 22 Feb 2009
work in collection

Thomas Struth’s interest in family portraits was triggered by a psychoanalyst friend, who as a means of finding out more about their biographical backgrounds asked his patients to bring photographs of their family from their childhood. The position of family members to one another, the closeness or distance to the partner, to father and mother, brother or sister reveals much much more than is immediately apparent. Struth found this insight and the thought of what options photography offers in this context so fascinating that he began a series of family portraits in 1985, which today alongside other topics, forms a central component of his oeuvre.

Initially, the families portrayed came from Struth’s close family circle or are friends and acquaintances; he later extended the scope to countries outside Europe and other social classes. His only condition is that there is a connection between him and the families in question – Struth never photographs people to whom no such connection exists. Generally speaking the artist first organizes several sessions with the portrait subjects to get a sense of the families, the individual members and their relationship to one another. The chosen backdrop is always in the family’s domestic environment, and Thomas Struth lets his models decide on the setting so as to produce as authentic a portrayal as possible.

The fascinating thing about Struth’s family portraits is their undeniably representative character. Even in what are seemingly the most casual groupings the need to present yourself as an individual within a hierarchical order remains – and the strength of this need varies from culture to culture.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, Munich:

Thomas Struth Familienleben. With an essay by Eric Konigsberg and texts by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl and Thomas Struth € 49,80

With thanks to Die Photografische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne