Thursday, February 22, 2007
William Wegman's Family Combination (1972). "Family Combinations is a set of six photographs in two groupings. The first grouping is a series of portraits of the artist, his mother, and father. Framed in an identical manner, each member of the family stands in front of a white background and wears a plain dark shirt. Scientific in their approach, the photographs capture Wegman and his parents staring blankly past the camera. An analytic record of physical features, Wegman treats each face with a cool detachment. Taking his analysis to the next extreme, the artist combines the first set of images to produce the second, overlapping mother with son and father with mother. From left to right, father Wegman's nose bursts out of his son’s face, mother Wegman's hair sits atop the artist's head, and mother and father combined produce a head which looks nothing like their son. The father/mother combination is the last photograph of the six and is situated diagonally across from the straightforward portrait of Wegman that - if we are to read the series from left to right - is our starting point in the work. The disjunction between beginning and end, not to mention between an emotionally dry approach to photography and portraits of one's own family, are humorous paths into the work. With a deadpan expression similar to the 1920s film comedian Buster Keaton, Wegman's unsmiling face masks a whimsical fascination with his own identity and with the medium of photography."-- Taken from a PBS essay on Wegmann's Family Combination.