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IntroductionClick here to Print this Page

For many artists the family portrait provides a chance to mine a family history and to explore their own identity in the process.

These portraits are sometimes made in a commemorative spirit, both critical and celebratory of relatives and friends perhaps long gone. Family stories offer a way for artists to understand their own relationship to the family group, exploring collective myths and memories to raise unanswered questions and broach what may have been left unsaid. In Hilda was a Good Looker, Anna Thew's mother recalls her childhood and the colourful figures who populated it, providing images and stories which Thew transforms into a disjunctive stream of images and sound, not unlike the rhythms of memory. Sarah Miles' fragmentary portrait of her family 2001 A Family Odyssey: Ophelia's Version alludes to the complex web of secrets and unspoken experiences shared amongst the family group. These are evoked through juxtaposed snatches of cinematic song and image, which echo and reflect shared experiences and ideas of identity in the family.

Stuart Marshall's poignant portrait of his father in Robert Marshall touches on his own sense of mortality, following his diagnoses of AIDs. He attempts to understand an absent father, and thus himself, through the recollections of family members and old photographs. Andrew Kotting's film Gallivant contains two different sorts of portrait. Firstly Gallivant is a portrait of a nation assembled from Kotting's encounters with the people who populate Britain's coastal margins, as he tours around the country in his highly idiosyncratic film diary. At the same time this portrait of Britain is relayed by the strong presence of his daughter and grandmother who accompany him on this very personal voyage of discovery.

There is a sense in Stephen Dwoskin's video Some Friends that the people pictured are as important to the artist as family. Filmed in his home and on location Dwoskin's friends affectionately address the camera as if they are addressing Dwoskin himself. Filmed in slow motion with an elegiac soundtrack the film conveys a sense of the passage of time in the familiar faces of old friends. Vivienne Dick's portraits of friends in New York and London reflect the lives and activities of an alternative community; artists and musicians who exist outside the mainstream. Dick modelled the structure of her super 8 film Guerrillere Talks on Andy Warhol's film portraits, leaving the leaders in between each short 'portrait' section as her female subjects perform for the camera.

Works
Still from Guerrillere Talks

Guerrillere Talks

Dick's first film, consists of eight unedited rolls of super-8 sound footage.

Still from Guerrillere Talks

New York Conversations

A documentary which is about returning to the city after a 10 year absence.

Still from Some Friends (Apart)

Some Friends (Apart)

A short and lyrical film about looking, and how that look shapes the relationship between those people whom we call friends.

Still Gallivant

Gallivant

Gladys is the director's grandmother, an opinionated octogenarian bursting with anecdotes and reminiscences, frequently confusing and contradictory.

Still Robert Marshall

Robert Marshall

Robert Marshall was instigated by the discovery of 8mm footage of the artist's father in the possession of Canadian relatives.

Still from 2001: A Family Odyssey

2001 - A Family Odyssey: Ophelia's Version

A poetic elliptical film exploring the hidden systemic powers of identification within a family constellation through four generations.

Still from A Portrait of Ga

Portrait of Ga

Another early experiment in portraiture from Tait.

Still from Hilda Was A Good Looker

Hilda was a Good Looker

"They didn't pull any punches. They used to raise their voices and shout and yell at one another. We didn't have Italian ancestors for nothing."

Still from Assumption

Assumption

A film which operates on many levels. It features glimpses of life at previous, less luxurious premises of the London Film Makers' Co-op; but it is more than a potted history of an organisation.

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