Todd Danforth – Portrait of a Family

Todd Danforth

Portrait of a Family

I sat on the hospital bed beside my grandfather and watched as he took his dying breaths. Aunt Beth walked into the room and quietly sat next to me. She glanced at her father for a moment and then back to me. “Life is funny, huh?” she said.

I looked at her and then back to my grandfather. His cheeks were no longer full and his body almost lifeless. A machine beside his recliner supplied oxygen to his lungs and I could not help but imagine myself at age seventy-­‐eight. Will I have his wrinkles too, I thought? His head full of white hair, not a bald spot to be found. And then I began to wonder about our non-­‐physical characteristics and the similarities my aunts and uncles share with my grandparents.I began to think about his memories and accomplishments and what value those hold now that he remains helpless. Who will continue this legacy he began? Who will tell his story after he goes, because afterall, we are the only ones who can.



These family portraits tell the photographic journey that I began in pursuit to understand the emotional struggles that bond my family together. After my Grandmother’s passing in 2004, my Grandfather became the patriarch of the family; but more importantly he was the aging bond that weaved my family’s legacy. As time has it, nothing lasts forever-­‐ his illness worsened, his memory faded, and as I ushered a final farewell to my last semester of college, my Grandfather took his final breath.

This portfolio was created over a four year period from 2009-­‐2013. The subjects of the work are my family and it is photographed in Massachusetts. Some photographs were taken in Florida on a road trip we brought my Grandfather on in 2011. Some of the photographs were featured in a German typography publication Slanted.




Todd Danforth grew up along the West River in the heart of the Blackstone River Valley, the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.

He was born into quite a large family with an astounding family history. His lineage can be traced back toJudge Thomas Danforth, the Deputy Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1679-­‐1686, who also sat on the Superior Court sessions during the Salem Witch Trials. Todd’s current photographic work focuses primarily on family and the ties that bond these close relationships together.

He currently resides on the South Shore of Boston, Massachusetts and holds his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University.


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Todd Danforth



11 Responses to “Todd Danforth – Portrait of a Family”

  • I have not been able to connect with the last few essays until now….This one for some reason hits home.
    For me this is one of those cases where there is a real experience…I feel it….Not even once did I think about anything technical or photography….this is just life. This is such a rare treat.
    It’s amazing what you have done Todd.

  • Haik,

    Tried looking for an email for you but did not find it.
    The link to Todd’s website is broken.

  • This essay really resonates with me as well.

    Every photograph made me curious about it, left me with questions and wanting to know more. Then the note at the end…tying everything together, making me realize I had just passed through a personal slice of heartfelt life and love and wonder and joy and pain and challenge and sadness and strength and perseverance. And then, reading the artist statement afterward made it even better, left me wanting to view it again.

    Like Carlo, I never once found myself trying to analyze or deconstruct anything…I just felt.

    Very strong work.

    Thank you, Todd, for sharing this.


  • carlo: link fixed

  • Todd, congratulations on being published here, and on this wonderfully moving work.

    I’m a huge fan of no bullshit straight up photography that draws on personal experience, and just tells it like it is. This is a fine example.

  • Thanks Diego and Carlo !

    Todd – wonderful essay !

  • Beautiful essay and that fist image stopped me on my tracks. It’s the portrait of a family alright, right there. Big congrats and a bigger thanks, Todd.

  • Todd, just loving this essay. Earthy. Real. Refreshing.

  • Todd, what I want to say has all been said above – a wonderful, real, essay, devoid of hyperbole or gimmick. It drew me in and told me a story.

  • I saw this essay last night and just didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. This was probably due to the fact I’d been out all afternoon searching for eyeball kicks. Went back to the essay this morning calm and well slept and it suddenly began to grow on me. Subtle is probably the word I’d use to describe this work, looks like nothing is going on much in the images but look closely and one can see the edges in the images are busy. Kind of reminds me of Alex Soth’s “Sleeping by the Missippi. What stands out above all is Todd’s love and respect for his subjects and its a glimpse at modern America.

  • It never ceases to surprise me how some stories, or moments or people or places, impact us at moments harder than they might at other moments….Todd’s story dug into me yesterday when i first saw it and i had to turn away and take a walk and later found myself drinking coffee and all that I’ve thought of late came pouring out, alone on a chilly april afternoon and i felt entirely alone….even though i am not alone, it felt that way..and i thought, this story is really about a child whose family was broken or split apart…there was no immediate suggestion of that in the statement at all, but somehow it seemed clear to me in the pictures and the moments (especially of the children) he’d chosen to photograph…in a sense, though i grew up in a very different place, i recognized much of this in my own childhood, one, which as a teen, was defined by two loving parents who couldnt love each other well enough and so ground their lives and the lives of their children, unintentionally, by hurt….that hurt, for my brothers and even for me, still exists and continues to define the way we negotiate the world….

    but i didnt want to write about that because it seemed unfair to inflict the work with my own sensitivities, then i read about his book on his website….

    strong, sensitive, hurting-work that comes straight forward at the family and his life with love and honesty and a direct gaze…tell the stories you were meant to tell, and the rest will fall into place…and it has….

    this is both a very specific story about a specific family and also one that resonates with all whose family has split, for the children left to pick up the pieces until they begin to build their own life and family, that splintering never ends…but in the arranging to reconstruct anew…hopefully one built from forgiveness and acceptance rather than disillusionment….

    a beautiful treatment of a powerful story that left me feeling sad all over again…but a necessary one, in order to gain footing again…

    thanks for sharing and congratulations….


    My Papa’s Waltz

    The whiskey on your breath
    Could make a small boy dizzy;
    But I hung on like death:
    Such waltzing was not easy.

    We romped until the pans
    Slid from the kitchen shelf;
    My mother’s countenance
    Could not unfrown itself.

    The hand that held my wrist
    Was battered on one knuckle;
    At every step you missed
    My right ear scraped a buckle.

    You beat time on my head
    With a palm caked hard by dirt,
    Then waltzed me off to bed
    Still clinging to your shirt.

    Theodore Roethke

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