family influences

most of us recall being influenced by an iconic photographer…

but i have a feeling family members play a very large role for us regarding  a life in photography….  either positively or negatively….

after talking with many students over the years i hear stories of  parents sort of  "looking  at the ceiling"  when their son or daughter tells them that they have a photography career in mind….

perhaps their parents  had visions of their best and brightest offspring going into medicine or law or business or any kind of "real job"….in addition,  many husbands or wives wish their spouses had a more secure career…

in other cases, a parent or spouse literally "makes" a photographer’s career and becomes a real "partner" in their development….

what role have family members or "significant others" played in your work and your career???


23 Responses to “family influences”

  • David,

    This is funny because my family has a huge influence on my career. Namely my mother. Initially I went into college with the idea of becoming a writer – novelist mainly. I always enjoyed literature and I was always told I had a way with the written word. After a couple of years of liberal arts, my mother told me about computers and how they were the future. For one reason or another I decided to transfer to a technical institution and completed a computer science degree. That was great for a while because it satisfied my desire for the definitive and the absolute. Plus it was the dawn of the .dotcom era so the money wasn’t too shabby either. Now 10 years later I am looking to the arts again, namlely photography.

    When I get tired of the technical world I blame my mother and say why did I listen to her? I could have been the next James Baldwin! But ultimately I realized that the technical side of my life has given me alot of insight that plays into the arts as well – attention to detail, cause and effect, failure and success.

    That was all to say that family had a big influence. Although it initially subverted my artistic pursuits, it also allowed me to acquire the resources and intangible skills that could be applied to my art.

    I realize that ultimately, if you are an artist and you have something to say, you will always turn to it your art. It will call to you and it will come out. No matter the influence – postive of negative. Only time tells the when.


  • My father, an experimental composer who is now 76, spent his life pursuing a series of questions about the nature of sound and the way it behaves. Though he came from a typical New Hampshire family, he pursued his interest even when his music wasn’t as well received as it is now.

    Whenever I feel discouraged, I think of how persistence most often pays off in the end. Pursuing photography isn’t an easy thing, and even given my father’s background, I’m never sure of his support. Even so, I think of the way he’s approached his life whenever I’m having trouble with my pictures: follow your interest, keep curious, and be persistent.

  • When I was 10 my dad gave me permission to use one of the two 1934 Leica III’s that my grandfather used as barter to get his life savings out of Europe after surviving WWII (luckily for me, he never sold the cameras). I also had some affinity to develop my own film and make contacts in the basement bathroom (my dad is a biochemist). After I saw my first photos appear right before my eyes on the contact sheet, I was hooked and have been ever since. My parents always supported my passion for photography.

    Ultimately I did opt for a more secure career in medicine, in part due to the advice of my parents, but even during residency in the mid 1990’s I often spent my few precious days off out shooting. My wife has also always given me the time, space and moral support to continue exploring the art. I know she respects my need to photograph: to try to suppress it is just not in her nature (reflecting just one reason why we are together).

    I sometimes wonder if I missed my calling, but nothing can stifle the desire to make photographs, so that’s just what I keep doing. I am not an amateur photographer or a professional photographer. I am a photographer. I am currently scanning my latest efforts and will post soon, but I enjoy not having any photo deadlines, working at a peaceful, humane pace.

    Reading the posts on your blog over the past couple of months has helped revive the memories of the same thoughts and struggles I went through during my late teen years, when I was seriously considering pursuing a career in photography. Not much has changed: some self-doubt, insecurity, and worry mixed with joy and love for the art.

  • I began to photograph because of my father, and I’ll been thanking him forever (not only for that, of course). First camera was a Nikkormat, then a Nikon FM2. Well, it’s pretty the old same story, isn’t it? Yes it is. I’m totally influenced in my aesthetic sense by my family: of course I’ve developed my own during the years, but the roots are deeply grounded in my family’s sense of beauty, and I’m talking of an architect and a french teacher. The funny things is that I’m one of four sons and daughter, and none of them have developed the same attitude towards arts and life. I’m telling this because, at the end, we can say that family matters, but it’s you that matters most, after all. One out of four: I was “doomed” to be like that, and the others simply followed different paths.
    You can find your way growing in an hostile environment too (I do agree with Sherman Charles): in that case you have to show what you’re good for, and many times your strength comes from the weakness. Nobody’s paying attention to what you do, that’s why you must be better than what you could be in a context structured to push you further. Again: it’s up to you.

  • My aunt married and could not have children. Her husband was a photographer. They ‘borrowed’ me for weekends to take trips. We would travel all over the Czech Republic to Moto-Cross races which he photographed. I would see him develop his photos, his chemistry, print dryer and everything that goes with it. I think he was the single most influence during my childhood to kindle passion towards the photographic arts.

    When he died I salvaged a folder with a few of his prints.

    Thanks for the remembrance.

  • I’ll give you an example…right now I’m shooting a commercial and we are in a middle of a break…it’s almost 11pm and I just called my wife to see if my kids are sleeping already…her first question was…are you shooting in 16mm or 35mm? (instead of….are you sure you’re working at 11?

    She is a creative like me.. she knows what it takes….That support is very important.

    Carlos Rubin

  • I am heavily influenced by my family. My father got me into photography. He was working at a magazine that was getting rid of all of their darkroom equipment. They were just planning on throwing it all in the dump but my father saved it. He was the one who gave me my first camera. A Canon AE-1. He also had a drawerful of Kodak Tmax 400 that he gave to me. My parents let me set up my own darkroom in the space underneath the stairs. They have supported me in what I’m doing. That being said my father has always been a pessimist. A “realist” he would call it. He has never been able to do all that he dreamed because of family obligations. And so he has a jaded look on life. So I would say that if it were not for him who knows if I would be into photography.

  • David, Thanks for bringing up this topic. It was my uncle, now 81, who was like a second father that encouraged my being a photographer. He was an engineer for the city of LA but shot weddings on the weekend. That’s how I got started right out of high school and one thing led to another. It was photography that brought us so much joy. A way of connecting with people. Fast forward almost 40 years later- we still have a very close relationship and now my daughters are almost the same age that I was when I began but that’s another story.

  • When I was 16 I bought my first Russian camera Zenit from my cousin after my first payment. It cost something about 10$ and my parents was angry for that. My first enlarger was old slide projector. I had no idea how to develop or making photos. I was happy if I have any image on paper. After year my camera has been spoiled. Next camera I bought when I was in Academy (Olympus om10). My parents was angry again. I sold it after year because I need money. I have very good parents but they did not know how to react always. Definitely they not support me. After graduated I have found Magnum Photos website and I fall love in photography. I start to buying equipment very slowly. After year I was sure I want to be photographer and after long learning now I can say I am. My parents are not angry for me because I am too old but they are not happy too.
    My family is my wife now. She support me 100%. Maybe she is too ambitious because she thinks that every photo should be revelation, but she is happy that I am photographer. She only complain when we return from journey and she have not snapshoot photos like normal tourist. She is never angry when I’m buying equipment or spend whole money for materials, she buy me little m6 camera even. And she always compare me to greatest photographers and she know that I’m not as good as they and she’s words killing me. But this is detail.
    She is my base. She is my light.
    The biggest influence on my work has Magnum photos for me. I never know any photographer personal. So yours colleges are my photographic family.

    Its time to start photographic day. I do go work.


  • Hi David,

    Yeh parents certainly influenced me. I remember when I was about 12 Dad had returned home from an overseas trip and had purchased a nice SLR camera. I already had an interest in photography at this stage and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I picked it up and tried to focus. I was having trouble … A simple qestion to Dad asking how to do it, how it works was responded with something like …. ‘If you can’t even work out the focus you’ll never be able to take photos’. From memory it turned into an argument and i probably had a few tears …but after I thought … stuff you Dad I’ll work it myself and I will take photos. After all isn’t that what photography is all about anyway … Working it out for yourself. I never asked for his assistance again with my photography …. In fact I don’t seek his advice on most matters either. Don’t get me wrong we get along well but that moment always stuck with me ….. Mum on the other hand ( they separated when i was 7) was always encouraging. She never had a lot of money but she somehow managed to buy me my first camera. I was 13 .. it was incredible. It was black! .. I loved it.. it was a Pentax Program A with a 50mm lens. I still have it. She also managed to get me through my photographic schooling which is not cheap…She is amazing. She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and take on new challenges. Without her I wouldn’t have been a photographer for the last 17 years … 18 actually .. shit .. getting on! … must get my crap together and produce a book or have an exhibition… or both! If not for me … for Mum

  • I neglected to add that my ever-present camera has influenced my next generation: my 9 year old son decided about 2 years ago that he wants to be a film director, and together we’ve made a couple of stop-action films. My 7 year old daughter takes our little digicam everywhere- she’s actually nailed a handful of wild shots (out of the hundreds). It’s a pleasure to see my offspring share in my passion.

  • My dad used to take lots of family pictures. I was always curious about his camera, and began to use it when I was around 14. We were a navy family, and he took me to the base hobby shop, and we made some black & white prints from some tri-x that we’d just developed. I’ll never forget that moment. It was truly exciting, and the beginning for me.
    Now years later, my wife encourages my work, and even helps me in promoting it.

  • my family is the celestial constellation around which my entire life of a photographer as orbited…beginning with my grandmother (a photographer) and defined now by marina and dima…..i’ve written about them in my bio….

    “I am blind. How then do I begin to account from the un-seeing? If not inside the chaotic and frantic harbor of our body, where then can we seek to remedy the channels by which we seek an understanding of things? Later, this: curved, wearied back stretching beneath the darkening porch light, I sit and fight the perpetual battle: should I write in response to a thought or sound or voice with which I travel. How best to suggest similarity: the propinquity of our perpetual disappearance. So this: I recall my wife’s feet scratching against the pavement of an October evening while my son’s air-chasing echo’d words called to us to catch up. I realized that I could never detail how both of those sounds entered my blood and unseated the blindness in which I find myself most of the time: how to give physical body to that which carves us invisibly. Inside the accordion flaps which is my photography, I have tried to capture with the blind basket of my eyes, those things which pass around, through and inside me, corporal or fleeting: bereft breathing. There is no truth in photography but in the sovereignty of the inner landscape of our life’s reckoning selves. We wane. We expand. We seed. We hunger. We are blind. What else can we do? We do not resist…”


  • My father had a Yashica. I dismounted it when i was 10. That was my first contact with a camera. He also had a flash that i used to scare old folks, during my childhood summer vacations, during the night – flashing against their windows :)

  • My father was a commercial illustrator who turned to professional photography when he was about 50. He gave me a Canon AE-1, taught me how to process film, make good prints in his little darkroom. (“Needs more shadow detail…” Damn…) More importantly he taught me to see, and think, and compose.

    One of the heartbreaks of his life was the disappearance of the album of his photos from the Korean War, where he was a medic. I remember it vaguely from when I was very little. Guess it didn’t mean much to me at the time, I’m afraid, but now I sure wish I could see it again.

    I remember him telling me about how he would go around on his time off, looking for insightful shots of the people and places. Sounds a lot like what I try to do now…

  • My life as a photographer began just about 5 years ago. My husband became best friends with the head of a Sufi order here in Maui. Right after we met this guy a big retreat was planned in Whidbey Island. Not being an organized spiritual kind of person I was looking for a way to participate in this adventure with my husband without participating in this path led by a MAN. I had just acquired my first digital camera a couple weeks earlier and when they were discussing the trip I boldly asked if I could be the official photographer for the retreat. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with the people in this order. Though I never embraced the life offcially, I am friends with them all and fall deeply in love with each new group I photograph. Most of the people in my life know that I am a photographer and love my work. There was never been any overt support of my work but neither did they discourage it. Over this past year my family, and especially my husband, has grown to appreciate my passion and recognize that it is not just “a hobby” that costs money. They recognize “my eye” for a scene and more and more friends and family are stepping up to support me in my work. Many doors are opening and some are closing due to this work. I love taking photos and without it in my life my family knows I would no longer be whole. Many of the doors that are opening are due to my family and their connections and the opportunities this affords to show my work. What I realized was that through these years of proving myself in this field that my family has become my biggest supporters and without them it would not be the same.

    Please take a look at my website. It has just gone through a renovation and is finally turning into a site that really shows off the work.

  • fondly it was my father that inspired me to pick up the camera. he always had said to me that he wished i would work in the arts in some capacity, in part because i think that’s what he wanted out of his life. it was also the camera that gave us a common ground through which we bonded on a special level. it was my dad who drove me around in the cab (he was a cab driver) at 4 in the morning to shoot pictures of runaways and hookers at locations he had scoped out prior, and it was my father who told me romantic stories of the day when he owned his own enlarger. i developed my first photo in a rental darkroom with him and he was so giddy.

    i always wanted to make him proud of me in that arena because it is something so dear to him, and talent he had that he feels confident about.

    he has always said to me, “do what you love and the money will come” about work, about pursuing a living, that the passion for what you do is the most important part about it – without those words i can’t say i would have had the conviction to pursue this as hard as i’ve tried.

    he’s a super special daddy.

  • uncle had this hobby…on some after dinner sessions we (the kids of the family) had the opportunity to enjoy his shoots on a wall. for a kid of 5/6 years it was a nice experience. but growing up
    i couldnt keep up with it.just dint get the support from my immediate family.
    in the college days…got the opportunity to get into the “photography club” who used to provide the films and cameras for shoots.

    surprizingly enuf, when my dad and mom heard that i was planning to build my career in photography that too when i was doing my computer science graduation they dint freak out.

    but later i couldnt reach it for some reasons. havent given up tho…not yet…

  • A nice thought – as a teen the only family I had was a mother who was glad I hit the road at 17… didn’t make it as a photographer, and had to work…. for decades… still do… last year discovered digital and a buried passion surfaced… now my wife can’t wait until I hit the road… for work this is… right now anyway… -;0)

  • My father taught me not to gamble by example and never pull anyone’s finger. My mum still has the same roll of film in her camera as when I was 7, Seriously I see the camera every so often.

  • on my parents and my photography:

    when i was young my dad’s AE-1 was always on the living room table, he took pictures of houses for his appraising job.. and family snapshots on vacations. the camera looked so interesting and complicated. national geographic was also always on the table.. i looked through every issue. the seed was planted… albeit deep.

    i went to france when i was 17 for a language class and took my mom’s point-and-shoot.. my parents enlarged and framed one of my photos from Paris as a gift.. it was the first ‘validation’ i had ever felt regarding photography… i’ll never forget that.

    my parents gave me a Canon Rebel for my college graduation gift… immediately i started taking pictures of oranges on the table and fowers in the spring. i made little books from the photos. my first job out of college was working offshore so i took pictures around the boat… and won some contests and money with those pictures.

    then again my parents got me a starter medium format camera for my 28th birthday.. i can’t tell you how meaningful that was for me. i made landscape/oceanscape pictures with it that i have had shows with and sold many prints of. photography was my meditation.

    in 2003 a friend ‘introduced’ me to the works of Richards, Harvey, Reed, Cartier-Bresson, etc.. it was like seeing again for the first time. i haven’t been able to look back since.

    although i think my parents enjoyed the color landscape images the most for their walls; they now see my people/story photography and they totally love it, even when it isn’t as obvious to them.

    a few months ago i did a feature assignment for the Seattle Times sports section.. it came out very nicely.. when my dad got a copy he called and said he was walking around the house with his “chest all puffed out.” that’s just how he is.

    my mom only wants for me to realise my dreams. that’s just how she is.

    it’s up to me to chase those dreams and see them to reality; but the moral support from them is a blessing, and i thank them often.

  • i love Carlos Rubin’s post here..

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