The Jenkins family
The Jenkins Family
The terms "privacy" and "publicity" when used in reference to a family photograph may provoke a disconnect of our accepted understanding of what a family photograph might be.
We usually regard family photographs as personal images of family members taken to record the experiences of family life not for public viewing.
The family photograph can be an object for contemplation, usually by those who are in the image or who have some relationship with others in the image. It often forms the basis for a private narrative to be shared with others privileged to be involved in the personal lives and experiences of those depicted. It is a remembrance of those who, since the photograph was taken, have grown older, married into other families or who have died. The image thus evokes a sense of death and rebirth. It is a momento mori, a personal memory shrine.
The inherent privacy of a family photograph ends when the people who have a relationship with those depicted in the photograph no longer have access to that visual archive. The family photograph over time, changes into an historical artifact and often enters the realm of the public archive, where it can be inspected and examined by others with no emotional connection to the photograph. Large collections of family photographs now exist in museum collections, one of the most famous being the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal.
At first glance the image reproduced here would appear to be a representation of the quintessential family unit, however it is not. The image is a fiction. It is a large colour photograph of some cast members of the 1993 made-for-TV movie entitled No Child of Mine. The image is of the Jenkins family who unfortunately struggle with Downs syndrome. The photograph of what appears to be a typical family was made to publicize the movie and its format was intended to elicit an emotional response to an atypical family photograph while alluding to the movie's plot. The participants in this fiction are from left to right standing: Bart Anderson, who now teaches at the Vancouver Film School (as Rick Jenkins), Megan Leitch (as Robin Jenkins), Tracy Nelson, Rick Nelsons daughter (as Tammy) and sitting left to right: Patty Duke (as Lucille Jenkins), Lachlan Murdoch (as Danny) and G.W. Bailey (as Lamar Jenkins).
Thus the family photograph can also be a fictional image fabricated specifically for public consumption. The viewer as vicarious voyeur is permitted a glimpse into the intimate lives of others, in the case of a publicity photograph with the intent of creating a quasi-emotional connection, in exchange for inclusion as a proxy family member.
But what is the difference between the image of a fictional and non-fictional family? Both are mediated compositions for the benefit of a stakeholder group whether they are friends and family members or a TV-watching public. Both are contrived for a purpose to elicit similar emotional responses in the viewer to create a sense of community, loyalty and identity.
Perhaps both types of images are fictions.
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