sam harris – postcards from home

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Sam Harris

Postcards from Home (2008 – 2011)

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Postcards from Home revolves around my domestic life and especially focuses on my two daughters Uma & Yali growing up.

After several nomadic years, we migrated to Australia in 2008. It was with the restrictions of our migration process (keeping me from professional photography and travel) that home life became my only consistent opportunity to photograph and the project was born.

As I witness my daughter’s transformation in what feels like the briefest of moments, I’m compelled to preserve something of our time living together.

An early part of Postcards from Home was previously published on Burn Oct 2009.


Bio

Born and raised in the suburbs of south London, Sam Harris is a self-taught photographer. In his late teens he made a home darkroom that he practically lived out of for several years, experimenting nightly whilst listening to records. These passions led him to start freelancing in the London music industry of the early 90s, making album sleeve art. Sam went on to also shoot editorial portraits and features for magazines such as The Sunday Times Magazine, Esquire, Dazed & Confused and Raygun.

In 2002 Harris felt the need to re-evaluate his lifestyle and photographic direction. Together with his wife and small daughter he left London and travelled slowly for several years. During this period Sam began the process of turning his camera inward… In 2008 Sam & family settled in the forests of Western Australia. He now teaches photography and records his family life.

Postcards from Home will be exhibited as part of the Sydney ‘Head On’ photo festival at Global gallery, Paddigton May 6 -15th 2011.

Sam will also be giving two talks at the Head On Seminar – Day 1, 14th May. ‘Transition – From London to the Bush’ and ‘Rock N Roll Photography’, along side Tony Mott, Sophie Howarth & Tali Udovitch.


Related links

Sam Harris

Blog

Head On Photo Festival


189 Responses to “sam harris – postcards from home”


  • Wow, I really like this one. Great color sense, nice use of go betweens, lovely feel. Kinda lost me 18 – 23, style for those is a bit out of place and images feel redundant, but overall, great stuff.

  • I love this. Life.

  • Very lovely. So close, so lifely.

  • EVA…

    yes, posted for exactly that reason….and a big fan of Sam Harris anyway….we have had this set to go for awhile, but now seemed the time…

    hugs, David

  • Can’t wait to get back home and see Sam’s latest images…
    Smiling…I consider myself an expert on his family work since DAH suggested I should study the first part of his marvelous family essay.

  • Damn, Sam, I love your stuff. This is so wonderful. I Love your life.

  • excellent!

  • Every time I think I’ve seen the Best of Burn, then I see yet another. Like this. Stunning in every way. Bravo, Sam!

  • Love this essay Sam, just love it. As Eva says, life: an affirmation of life. The subject is heartwarming and the photography superb. Thanks for sharing – the exhibition is going to be a huge success!

    Mike.

  • simply lovely….
    adoring….
    hope to see this series as they go thru their teenage years…..
    love #27….
    VIVA!!!!
    would love to see your exhibit, congratulations!!!!!!!!
    what size are your prints, and how are they being displayed?
    ***

  • Intensely intimate and utterly lovely. Yum.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    SAMMY…I received your postcards…long time ago…
    and I will second all of the BURNIANS…

    my book is not here yet…hmm…I can wait:)!!
    Viva!

    back to my aisle…

  • yes sam..
    so good to see this again..
    and now..
    could it be the most important subject of all?
    i see fledgling efforts to be the parent we imagine ourselves to be.. learning-on-the-job.. you’ve a great deal to be proud of in your family, as your family do in you.

    always a fan of your photographs – from long before we were friends, in the case of your music portraiture..
    am a fan of your family too..
    for living an evolution..
    taking on challenges and evolving when many would feel contentment and stagnate..
    i mean to say – you’ve pushed yourselves beyond the easy part.. the simple “dream” and into harsh reality.. despite the detractors and mundane tedium of making change happen.. the let downs when reality does not match imagination.. bureaucracy.. there you are.. doing your-own thing.. and photoing.. and exhibiting..

    an inspiring young bunch of explorers you are.. and it’s been some welcome comfort to myself, and my own geographical changes, that we have our friendship..

    i owe you an email..
    d

  • and THANKS for this piece now..
    and the opportunity it provides..

    onwards.

  • Couldn’t wait any longer looking on my niece’s laptop…
    Absolutely lovely! Brilliant set of images which your daughters will treasure in years to come. The quotidian which we usually overlook as something so banal is as you’ve proved full of magic and what life is worth living for. Love the colours and the overall diversity of the images, makes a very compelling essay and once again wanting more new images sometime soon…
    “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.”
    Kurt Cobain.
    “If youth knew; if age could.”
    Sigmund Freud.
    “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”
    George Bernard Shaw.

  • wonderful essay. These photographs really have a heartbeat. The sun just came out in Chicago for the first time all week making me feel alive !! I get that same felling looking at this work.

  • SAM
    awesome
    amazing
    super duper
    extraordinary
    life
    life
    life
    celebration of life
    superb
    beautiful
    touching
    un pretentious
    not easy to shoot
    no cliche
    no easy money
    mirror
    mirror
    mirroring
    u got the strength
    vissaria style/Patricia style..
    greater than Sally Mann imho
    i can go on on and on

    time for as to skype btw soon…

    (sorry for stealing/adopting/borrowing Wendy’s poetic style:)

    this essay feels soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooood and soothing after all those late breaking disturbing news…

    OASIS!

    THANK U DAH, for posting this essay
    THANK U SAM, for sharing with us this amazing work..once again, Best essay in Burn..

    yes my day started the right way
    thanks again Sam..
    you have the most beautiful family!

  • Loved your first spread, Sam, love this one, too. The photos may be two dimension, but when I look at them, I feel four dimensions – the standard three and fourth being the depth of human interaction and spirit.

    It looks to me like being denied the right to make a living a professional photographer was the best thing that ever happened to you – not just because it led you to create such a great set of photographs, but more so because you have been able to grow up with your daughters.

  • Absolutely love it Sam!!! The most evocative “stories” are often right at the end of your nose…. :-)

  • #5 is brilliant!

    I do continue to struggle when I see personal essays like this – somehow I fail to connect because it’s somebody else’s family and while I would like to care, I just don’t. But that’s my problem, not a problem of the photographs shown.

  • Sam, I’m sitting here right now in the rocking chair on the front porch, Little Feet live playing, feet on the rail, with a glass of JD rocks as a warm sunny day winds down (finally here in the rainforest). The dog is rolling his tennis ball between my feet and the chickens are milling around, bald eagles flying over eyeing the chickens, and humming birds are fighting over the feeder while the deer forage the field. The only thing that could have made this day any better was your essay and a smile. Many thanks to you and Burn for both.

  • I feel the same as Carsten. While I’m certain these photos are very special to the photographer and his family, I just don’t feel any connection with them. Well done family snaps. Some of it I acknowledge is that I have no children to make a purely emotional connection to life with kids. But most of it is that it’s somebody else’s family, with which I have no connection.

    The photos are well done family snaps. Can’t figure out why family snaps are on burn, though.

  • Regarding Carsten and Jim’s point, that’s what I felt as well about 18-23, though to be honest there are a few others. I think, in general, that for kid pics to work they have to be about “children” or “childhood” or something universal, not just cute snaps of the photographer’s kids. A lot of the pics in this essay manage that.

    I have kids and thousands of pictures of them, many of which are interesting from an artsy photography perspective, but, you know, the ones I like best are much closer to typical snapshots than pieces of art — blowing out birthday candles, first time in a pool, that sort of thing, bad light and all. But for those kind of snapshots to be interesting, they pretty much have to be my own kids or people I know and care about. Otherwise…

  • Jim,
    Would it make any difference to you had the kids been Eastern European immigrants
    and not the photographers own children?

  • it is an interesting thought mtomalty..
    the idea of immigrants photographing their own lives i mean to say.. from an insiders perspective.

    were there more socio/political context to sams work – such as you suggest.. eastern european or asian moving to the us or uk how would that be taken? forward thinking? exploratory even?
    we’re the photographs a result of a gallery outreach project or a “celebrated” photographers initiative, would they be more celebrated?

    to me it makes no difference.. our own children and “the family” is a valid and surprisingly difficult subject to photograph as openly as sam has..

    a blooded tooth on a child is relative to all our pains – no greater and no less – and so to photograph that face in agony is just as valid as to photograph any pain… add to that the fact the blood of the photographer runs through the childs veins and it becomes a difficult photograph to take.

    in any case..
    whatever the subject – it is very easy to dismiss.
    more difficult to search for why there is respect, and stretch our understanding.

  • Jim, there are some seriously good photographs here i.e. not snaps. I agree that the family aspect of the essay is more important to Sam than to us; nevertheless there are some gems here. For me, 1,3,4,5,8,14,22,and 27 are the best. Number 5 reminds me of driving with the car windows open – when I had hair.

    Mike.

  • All… thanks so much for your comments… i will be back shortly to respond…
    (most of you are probably asleep right now, anyhow…)

    but while it’s fresh… David Bowen,

    thanks for putting so eloquently what i had in mind but could never express quite as effortlessly as you in written words. Whilst i find this work challenging to shoot for many reasons… it is also, without a doubt the most rewarding.

  • Jim…

    I don’t see family snaps here at all. These images evoke the beauty of childhood, the stops and starts kids and parents endure whilst living together and growing up. As far as I’m concerned these images aren’t too personal and they do manage to convey the feeling of childhood in general.
    Seriously you should spend perhaps if haven’t done it yet some quality time with teenagers…it does us adults no end of good…makes one remember not everything is black or white and if one goes about it properly with a desire to listen and adding our experience into the mix they also come out benefiting.

  • David Bowen – thanks indeed. Knowing that you were out there dealing with similar challenges helped me a lot in those darker days… sometimes I really wondered what the f… I’d done with my life, my career… but you gave me a lot of encouragement, I appreciate that massively.

    Really looking forward to seeing some of your latest work…

  • Panos, Panos, Panos… what would we do without you…

    You flatter me too much with your compliments!! But thanks mate : )) I really appreciate your words and I know you talk from the heart, we all know that!
    Sally Mann, dude! Now that’s one photographer I’d love to hang with (dah?!! – laughing…)

  • About ‘connecting with’ it… I think it may take time to connect with art in general. If there is some ‘resistance’ at first then it may very well be a good sign, because then there’s more opportunities to explore the details and to learn to appreciate that which seemed unfamiliar at first. To break through that resistance is a good feeling. Tickling.

    Sam; You seem very good at not paying attention to limits or rules – that’s perhaps the biggest reason why this essay works so well. I’d like to ask so many questions – but for all I know I might find the answers by looking through the essay some more. I think I’ll do that after making some coffee now.

    Thank you for letting us look into the life of your family – twice!
    It is a huge gift.

    Good luck in Sydney.

  • “Our names will flutter
    on these hills like little fires.”

    –Wendell Berry

  • Civi…Wendy…

    Civi… your book?! it’s almost on it’s way…

    i am working on a couple of books right now. one is a handmade edition of ? – well I’m making 2 but I’ve got enough materials to make maybe 4 or 5…

    i wonder does anyone know how that works? if you make only 2 books, can you say it’’s an edition of 5, knowing you can make more ‘if’ you need to??

    the other is a print-on-demand version of postcards from home, with a few extra images also. i’ve been working on it, on and off for ages now… trying different designs and companies etc. but it’s practically done… it needs to be as I want to have a few copies with me in sydney…
    once it’s good to go, i’ll let you know… : )))

    Wendy…

    thanks!
    yeah i plan to continue until the girls eventually leave the family nest. i am hoping that the coming years, will provide the ‘meat’ of the project… Uma is 11 now and fast approaching adolescence… should be interesting…

    what size are my prints?… expensive! : )) yeah some are quite big (or at least big for me…) i don’t want to spill all the beans now… all cotton rag… some will be around a meter wide, others smaller… i’m planning on doing some blog posts from sydney, with shots from the gallery etc… so stayed tuned ; )

  • Bjarte!

    Nicely put… and before coffee : )))

    “You seem very good at not paying attention to limits or rules”

    maybe that’s my south london comprehensive school roots : ))

  • Tom…Ross…Bill…Paul…

    tom hyde, you paint a lovely picture – where in the world are you??? Sounds like my kinda place… raising my mug of tea… cheers to you!

    Ross, cheers mate! love to see you over in Sydney (that’s just over the way from you isn’t it!?)…

    Bill – Frostfrog

    thanks! your very kind… the forth dimension… i like that…

    Yes being denied pro photography for a few years certainly was a catalyst for me, that and Burn.
    but I must say with regard to growing up with my daughters … THAT was a choice I made some years before, back in London, whilst pushing a baby Uma on a swing one weekend… hence all the traveling etc…

    Paul… thanks!… i find it so interesting to read how other people view my photos, i don’t think about it too much myself, i just try to be instinctive and see if i like it afterwards… i think i’ve always tried to be like that with photography, playful… but some times were easier than others…

  • Sam…

    I wouldn’t limit your editions at all…
    Make limited runs of the same print or book…
    Just imagine you get lucky and that book of yours you’ve decided to make a limited edition of 10 becomes the only work everyone wants to buy, but you can’t sell anymore because you promised you would only make 10 copies/editions…

  • Sam…

    When you are taking these family photos are you just shooting all for personal reasons or are you also thinking essay wise?
    I’m shooting the “same project” different kids :).. I was thinking of the photo of your daughter lying on the ground after falling off her bike, I’ve got a couple of similar images different accidents… I’ve been accused by my wife of taking the photo before coming to the “rescue”… it’s the only kind of images she is slightly against as she keeps telling me to stop kidding myself into believing they are just personal stuff when it’s more of an essay image…she’s probably right but in 20 years time it won’t matter because it will be my kids childhood and that’s all..

  • Patricia…Marcin…Mike R…Paul Treacy…ALL…DAH…

    Patricia – great to see you back here on Burn… we’ve missed you… and thank you for your compliments…
    i hope your still shooting inspiring work… about time we saw some here on burn i reckon!

    Marcin – cool!

    Mike R – thanks for your kind words… fingers are crossed for the exhibition…

    Paul Treacy – thanks indeed!

    OK, i’m off to sleep now… busy days… too busy… DAH – how do you do it?!! this last month has almost put me on the ropes and so much i still have to do… preparation for the seminars is only half done… handmade books to finish… paper work/forms/bills/scanning… and only a few days until i fly to the other side of the continent…

    ALL… thanks for taking the time to look at my photos today and to respond. Especially after the tragic news. My heartfelt sympathy to all Tim’s family & friends.

    DAH… i owe you a message… but better when i am fresh…tomorrow…much respect and many thanks

    sam

  • Paul… nice one…just read your post, but i need to sleep now… i’ll get back to you tomorrow : )))

  • a civilian-mass audience

    SAMMY…can you please sign the book,just one…and write me nice stuff…like

    From SAM to Civi
    the best civi in the world
    with 20 baby chickens, two rabbits
    one turtle,two fishes,’in the broken grecolandia…
    you know English…make me look good
    like a special civilian…blah,blah…

    hiiiiiiii…just kidding…keep rocking mate…
    TO LIFE and beyond !!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    ok,goodnight…to you to your family and to ALLLLLLLLLL aboard !!!

  • SAM: :)))

    i don’t have a lot of energy at the moment to write, so i shall cheat and post what i wrote to you 2 years ago when version 1 was shown….this story meant alot to me then, it still means alot to me now….i too have made the decision to make the immediate world around me that by which i would navigate my life, my work, my hopes…..some of my favorite images are back, with some gorgeous new ones (the opener is so much stronger than the original opener)….and i love, of course, all the abstraction and lyricism…in truth, it isn’t what we SEE about the life in front of us, our families (that indeed would be simply snap shots), but it is what the life in front of us allows us to conjur, to reimagine, to reignite, to create…this is not your family but this is work that came from the alchemy of family life, loss and love…..family shots show, photography imagines…and that is the difference…i still love this work so much…

    feeling sad, tired, yesterday, i wrote a student in taiwan: life is like a light in a room in the morning in the spring, off the corner. It will disappear in the morning, it shall more quickly disappear, …but there are more mornings yet to come…..

    and by the way, when the first version of Postcards aired in October of 2009, Jim Powers wrote, “Some very personal snapshots. As Civi would say, “What not to love.”…my, how time has changed…

    I repeat to you what i wrote then:

    Sam! :))))

    Boris Mikhailov once said that there are three types of ways to take pictures: with distance as a reporter (having no true relationship with the subjects), with financial/commercial relationships (paying the subjects or the subjects paying the photographer) or with Love (photographing friends and families and the people and places which define one’s life). Although I have deep respect for all three types of photographic practice, it is the photographers and books which work from ‘love’ that I have always been most drawn and most inspired by. Your essay is indeed an act of love, but not only love for your family and home but for something much more profound and fundamental: the wonderment of the living and our relationship to that. From the most personal and private of moments, you have sewed us a universal story one in which each of us can recognize the scent and taste and touch and sound and light of our own families and lives. From the particular, the universal is born.

    Some of your essay reminded me of Trent’s magnificent project Christmas Tree in a Bucket: not in style, but in spirit: the capturing of a moment that yields in shadow and light, in music and laughter, something that stitches together all of our gossamer lives. Same too the work of one of my heroes: Lartigue. Jacques Henri Lartigue is one of the greatest photographers to have ever graced this world and his photographs, comprised entirely of friends and family and moments that surrounded his life have been a pinpoint of expression for many of us. So too the extraordinary work of Meatyard and Araki and Fukase and Goldin and Towell and Mikhailov and Cameron and Eggleston and all the other remarkable visions that have chosen to settle upon the immediate of the people and family and life around. All those extraordinary family albums that most people will never have the opportunity to see or sift through, to touch or tip against the weight of memory of their own lives. From David Harvey’s Out for a Family Drive to the book that my own grandmother (a photographer) made for me of my own life, these family albums have been a north point toward which i’ve banked my own life, as a son, a father, a husband, a photographer, a writer. I am inspired Sam, equally by the breath and light and joy and mystery that is contained in your essay here as well. A reminder of what we all have and what shall be torn rift from each of us eventually.

    There are so many extraordinary moments in this story that I am left NOT wanting to talk specifically about the images, though many of them stun: this extraordinary photograph of the young girls in the car, her hair electrified by the dance of the wind tonguing through the carwindow and the sun startling each of us, as if that child were our own who has grown up and lept far away (it looks like a gorgeous kodachrome moment), the extraordinary physicality of the chewing-gum photo: the scent is there lingering in the elasticity of the moment, and the burst pop coming later, the ghost train (as if a Platonov story) outhouse outside the window of the home, the blundstones after a walkabout reminded of their own weariness with the death of the sparrow, the hoola-hoop, the fractured sun weeded over the limbs of trees, the crepuscular profiles of noses and toes and teeth and books and darned yarn, as if all those gorgeous nocturnes that alight upon each of our lives, the birds and the sheaf, the buddhist prayer flags born from laundrey, the songlines in the window and along the car’s speedometers, and above all, the music and the voices and the laughter that inhabit and haunt nearly ever photograph in this series. For in truth, when i am alone and think of my wife and son, of my own life with my brothers in my childhood, sound is what defines all my memories: the sound of laughter, the squawk of argument, the bleet of joy and the bench of breath, for to raise a family, to photograph a family is to come to terms with that bridging of the silence of being alone and the tumult of all that sound of life. When my son leaves us, it is his voice, either with joy or with anger, that i shall miss the most profoundly and which shall quietly break my over over the days of absence.

    For in truth Sam, each of us negotiates and wrangles with that absence and each of us knows that, whether we are parents or not. As a son and as a father and as a photographer, I was scraped large by the magnificent joy and tenderness and photographic beauty of these pictures. They are more than family ‘snapshots’, but as Towell reminds in his view from his porch, they are clues into each of our lives and worlds. Most of the people we love will disappear from our lives. We who will be wren’d and ratcheted from the soil from which we felt certain. We shall be misunderstood and confused, betrayed and bereft, we shall loose most of the things and people who are important to us, either through confusion or fate, circumstance or ego, from hubris or negligence. We shall, most of us, bury our parents and grandparents; we shall loose friends; we shall be misunderstood and criticized, by friends and family, parents and children alike. We shall loose everything that we hoped to plant, cultivate and see thrive. And with our children, our most enduring and precious life, we shall loose them too. there is a moment in Anne Carson’s magnificent Poem-Novel, the autobiography of red, when Geryon (i think) describes what it means to be a parent: as if standing on a hill and in the receding distance, on a further hill, is the child who is running faster than we are, and we are unable to catch them, for they are galloping toward the further horizon, to their life and their future, and we cannot catch them, and in the ache of that realization, is the ache and wonderment of life.

    and yet, we must cherish that. For photography has a way to point toward the corners which words, as Berger reminds, cannot lick and illuminate. Everything about the people and light and places in your magnificent story Sam will change and alter and disappear and yet, is it not photography’s power that allows us to remember, to hold on tight to that which is best about our lives and to which we must often be reminded: the place of love and community and family in our lifes which helps us buttress against the descending ending. these photographs are filled with light and music and have become, as with the best of all work, about my own life too. maybe i was a bit sensitive this week, after having wrestled and thought about and come to terms with the loss of a close person in my own life. and then just this morning speaking with my mom, who this week went through intensive, invasive surgery, and trying to keep her positive and laughter-filled as she struggles with pain and change and fear. If anything Sam, your beautiful story reminds me of a simple truth: that if we look around our lives and celebrate, hold closely and faithfully those around us and see that, our live, even with sorry and sadness, grows meaningful and light. As a photographer, I too have spent most of my photographic life trying to speak against the receding by photographing family and friends and students and the world of memory and the world i know best: that which defined me and my life. It is this peculiarity that makes your essay for me so strong, so joyous and so special.

    Take those people who are close to you into your arms and fill your life with them and with their animated, blood-driven warmth for eventually, sooner than we all expect, that warm space between our arms will be filled with empty space. Celebrate that and forever remember that. It is all we have and more than that.

    congrats Sam! gorgeous and magnificent work…

    all the best
    bob

  • a civilian-mass audience

    oime…BOBBY…I wish I can copy and paste your posts on my brain cells…so I can enjoy them later…
    BUT…that’s why we have BURN archives:)!!!

    back to SAMMY…

  • Bob Black

    Thanks for re-posting your wonderful thoughts. You have a wonderful ability to articulate what many of us I’m sure feel.
    Sam has the wonderful ability to make pictures of moments in his own life that resonatate with all of us. A perfect illustration of DAHs oft quoted “don’t show me what it looks like, show me what it feels like.

    Sams style here is major up close and personal. One feels as if we are peering through his eyes in “being John Malkovich” style. I can almost hear a sound track, smell bubble gum.

  • Yes, Bob, and they are still personal snapshots. I have nothing against personal snapshots. There is no way to criticize personal snapshots as such. But I still wonder why they show up on burn.

  • marcin luczkowski

    Jim

    Personal snapshot is photography. Burn show photography. Burn show personal snapshot.
    nothing to wonder about.

  • mtomalty – :o)
    —————

    yes sure:(.. if the kids were starving somewhere in Indonesia or Uganda, crying etc, if it all was shot in trix then “some” here would love it…yeah we “bring awareness”..”saving the world” (and trying to get paid at the same time of course)…. balloni! bull…! cliche zoriah style…”good photojournalism”…bull…bull..

    Sam thank u for “letting us in” with no alterior motives..just your love for your family and photography…u succeeded even if u didnt manage to “save the world”…
    Although u managed to sooth (save) my soul, gave many a smile and lots of eye candy shots too..
    What would be more successful than that?
    people think out of the box…most looking for the easy , “moneyshots”, kids suffering from malaria…

    Sam thank u for NOT doing all that and thank u for choosing the hard way instead of the easy cliche one!
    big hug

  • “don’t show me what it looks like, show me what it feels like.
    ——————————————–
    DAH, BOB, GORDON, TOM, u all summed it up:)

  • Man, I like some of the photos, but this is turning into a real circle jerk. Taking pictures of your kids is choosing the hard way? Mmmmkay. So now who’s gonna go for the greatest challenge in photography? Yes, I’m talking about kittens… Or is it squirrels?

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