(Re)construction of intimate and personal through self-portraits: »Familie werden« (“Becoming a Family”). I collected 5 german family albums at flea markets in Berlin and 5 Japanese family albums on online auctions. One condition is that they contain more than 100 photographs of family so that I can fully understand the family background such as family structure, time and place. I selected 1-2 photographs from each family, where I could see subject clearly knew, that they were being photographed. Photos where they seem to be saying „This is my family”, „This is who I am”. I pored over the memories of this family and decided to „become” their family. I searched for clothes and objects that looked as similar as possible to the ones in the original photographs. At times, I handmade the costumes and props myself. I shot the photos ― playing each role myself ― in studios, in similar-looking locations, and sometimes even in the exact location as in the original photographs.

Foundations of a family are made up of stories built upon memories. Moreover, the notion of a family is historically and culturally universal. Thus, family photographs of even complete strangers reflect the viewer’s own experiences and memories and evoke nostalgia and empathy. Family photos taken in a photo studio, snap shots taken by a family member with a compact camera, and other photos featuring not only family members but a variety of people including relatives, friends, classmates and colleagues, are carefully mounted on the pages of family albums. French philosopher Roland Barthes stated that the noeme, or the “essence” of photography is the trace of what “has been”. Likewise, family albums tell a different story than the one that actually “has been”; they serve as a visualization of the relationship between relatives and family members. Sometimes, the stories are rearranged and replaced with better memories. Every time we look through a photo album, we are reaffirming the existence of our family in a staged documentary-type story. Today, photography has become an individual act and family photos are seldom collected in a family album. Photographic interests have shifted to oneself and one’s daily life. However, we must continue taking family photos. Photographs strengthen the continuity and alliance of the family as a group, firmly establishing it with the help of a visual image. The act of taking a photograph together is a way to reconfirm and reinforce the family bond. It may be only a pretense of a family. But perhaps the family becomes a family by being photographed. The photographs are a proof of our existence. I slink into their stories in order to become part of the family. The stories of these families weave in and out of memory and oblivion, fiction and reality. This project brings back to life these family photographs, which once had been left behind.

About the artist
Rie Yamada was born in Nagoya in 1984. She studied Photography in Japan. After working at a photo studio for three years, she came to Berlin in 2011. In 2013, she began her degree in Visual Communication at the weißensee academy of art berlin (weißensee kunsthochschule berlin). She completed her Bachelor degree in 2017 and is currently working on her Master degree. Her Bachelor graduation project »Familie werden« won the gute aussichten – new german fotografie award and the Mart Stam Prize. Her work has been exhibited at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, as well as overseas, such as in Japan, Mexico, Vietnam, Paris and London. »Familie werden« is the first part of a three-part series focusing on the past, present, and future of the family. The second part of the series, which she is currently working on, is about exploring present-day forms of families by taking part in “partner hunting” events and using “rental family” services in Japan. The third part will be about herself and her future family. 

Place: Dom Towarowy Jedynak Gdańska Street 15 (entrance from Dworcowa Street), 3rd floor

Monday – Saturday – 10.00-18.00
Sunday – 12.00-16.00

Entrance for festival pass ovner (cost of festival pass 10PLN)