Family Portraits Taken with the Help of Skype

Just came across this art project from photographer John Clang, based in New York. His family is in Singapore, and he got an idea to take portraits of his New York family and ‘Skype-in’ his family in Singapore. Nirzhar and I have family in Nepal and England – as well as across the US and Europe – and to get a family photo with all of us in it would take some doing – and many frequent flier miles! The idea of using technology to help bridge the gap and bring families together to share and capture a moment was both beautiful and touching. Below is part of the article, along with some of the photos:

stephanie chi-weng tsui; her mothr, alexia wai-chun tye: alexia-s partner, pierre de fouquet’

In order to create a photographic series which encapsulates new portraiture for the modern international family, singapore-born and new york-based photographer john clang developed the series ‘be here now’. The collection of images picture several groups of relatives originally from singapore with all members of the family unit included in one shot. What makes this series tailored to the new standard of haphazard familial diaspora is that regardless of whether or not the people of a particular kin group are physically in one geographic location, the photographer is able to capture all members together through a projection of the missing individual(s) likeliness with the use of the video-chat system, skype. This technological choice removes the obstacle of all individuals of a family needing to be in the same place at the same time, removing the issue of member’s absence from affecting the traditional artistic documentation of family.

Clang says of his first version of the series, ‘being together’ in which he pictures his own family based in new york and singapore, ‘webcam was used to do live recording of my family in Singapore. The recording was then transmitted via skype to new york city and projected onto my living space. this is how families, dis(membered) through time and space, can be re(membered) and made whole again through the use of a third space, a site that is able to reassemble them together within the photographic space that we call a family portrait.

Drawing upon my own experiences of being separated from my family as a new york-based singaporean, this work documents and examines our condition of new-wave diaspora – singaporean families of various races and ethnicities [sic] grappling with the same predicament of separation through time and space.

In addition, this is also an extension of one of the recurring theme of my works: the fascination with the expressions of time and space and how we negotiate our human existences within these two dimensions. This work specifically addresses the phenomenon
of differing time zones, the different dimensions of our human representations, and how we can finally coexist, albeit in pixilated [sic] and two-dimensional forms’.

Family Photo image from the series 'be here now' by john clang, 2012
‘wetport, connecticut (and singapore): deedee lim; her brother boonleng lim, and his wife, yi chen; their children, eolantha and bryan lim;
deedee’s mother, tionghua koh; deedee’s sister, meideelim, and her husband, terence oh; their children, gavyn and lenard oh’

an image from the series 'be here now' by john clang, 2012
‘hong kong (and singapore): back row: brandon wong and his wife, belinda leong; belinda’s brother, donald leong; front row: donald’s daughter, jeanette leong; belinda’s mother and father, helen ang and robert leong; belinda’s sister, jessie leong, and her daughter megan marsh’

Family photo image from the series 'be here now' by john clang, 2012
‘tokyo (and singapore): ros lee; her brother, kelvin lee, and his wife, hazuki lee nakano; ros’s mother and father, tan gek kee and lee choong kean; ros’s sister, melissa lee’

an image from the series 'be here now' by john clang, 2012
‘bellevue, washington (and singapore): edwin goh; his sisters alvina goh and siew lin goh; their parents, per ching goh and pe chou sui; edwin’s sister alina goh and her husband, justin woo’…More at skype reunion family photo

Isn’t that wonderful? Family photography is about being in the moment with the people we love – and thanks to Skype, we can now do that no matter where we are.

We currently use Skype to talk with Nirzhar’s Father in Nepal, and the next time we’ll give this a try!

Do you Skype? Anyone far away that you wish you could have a portrait with?

Also, Skype now offers “Group Calling”, as shown in this video:

– RP