Now, Wasikowska has been selected as one of the winners in the 2021 Lens Culture Street Photography Critics’ Choice Awards. Joanna Milter, Director of Photography at The New Yorker selected the series Negotiating the Family Portrait 2011-2021 for an Award. Experts, such as Milter, explored entries from across the globe to select their top three personal favourites. There’s no jurying as a panel; just choices made individually by each of the expert critics.
Images were submitted by photographers from over 150 countries and twenty-one critics chose individual photos and series that captured their hearts. Explaining her choice of Wasikowska’s series, Milter described the images as lively and noted that the artist “purposely captures those instances before everyone is in place. Yet she understands that the presence of a photographer changes everything; even in seemingly offhand moments, her subjects are performing for her camera.”
The ten images in the series have been captured over a decade – indeed it is five of them that have been finalists in the NPPP. Wasikowska says the series title summarises how she thinks about the act and procedure of making family portraits for public viewing. As we all should be, she is keenly aware of the discussions and negotiations of private and public - what to exhibit and what to keep private. She suggests, and I agree with her, that image makers tread a fine line when contributing to the dialogue of family portraiture while revealing something candid but not uncensored.
We have all experienced difficulties taking photos of getting people to smile, not hold fingers above heads, and not hide behind taller folk. Wasikowska has solved those problems. Whilst saying she longs for them to be the actors in her images, she also expresses her hope that each photograph holds the essence of a genuine, personal event, for herself and each of them. These annual portraits of her immediate family are a highlight of her portrait photography, summarising the previous twelve months.
In one image, every family member has brought their year’s story to the table.
Negotiating the Family Portrait 2015-16 - A study of history, myth and identity family
© Marzena Wasikowska
Negotiating the Family Portrait 2020-21-A COVID Kind of Day © Marzena Wasikowska
It is a delight to see these ten images together. They start with a relatively simple, yet exquisite, image of just two of the family.
Negotiating the Family Portrait 2010 - Long Distance Conversation 1 © Marzena Wasikowska
Along the journey we see far more complex groupings of much larger gatherings of family members, in which the theatricality and performance style truly shines through.
Negotiating the Family Portrait 2012 © Marzena Wasikowska
We are members of an audience. Some may wish they were videos rather than just one still image of a moment frozen in time. But these are the precise moments that the artist selected and wants us to see.
This article was first published in the Canberra Times on 4/9/21 here. It is also on the author's own blog here.