In Aperture magazine's latest issue, a rumination on "family" through an inclusive lens featuring photographs by Stefan Ruiz, Diana Markosian, and David Armstrong.
Family has taken center stage in our current geopolitical moment. From families separated at the border to state laws hoping to prevent LGBTQIA+ couples from adopting children, what family means has maintained urgent status. How do we interrogate family outside of archaic social and cultural ideals? Aperture magazine’s latest issue grapples with this by embracing one of our most traditional relics, the family photo. We see images of the “chosen family” of queer people of color at House of Xtravaganza, deep dives into Black familial archives, and comedic renditions of traditional family photos in studios.
Diana Markosian grapples with the stakes of losing members of her family and her home, recreating images of her and her brother following their mother from Moscow to Santa Barbara. Markosian told Document, “Family is something I can’t quite define or really make sense of. I guess losing family has taught me what a privilege it is to have it, and how we often get in our own way of having it.” Her staged photos are also influenced by the soap opera Santa Barbara, the beauty of which in part motivated her mother to become a mail-order bride.
In contrast, Stefan Ruiz captures the beauty of building a family outwards. When speaking to Document about his work he notes, “They say you can’t choose your family but obviously many people do.” Photographing members of House of Xtravaganza, Ruiz’s images serve to chronicle a cornerstone of the ballroom community and the care the Xtravaganza family feels for one another. “Ideally, I guess a family is supportive and accepts you with your flaws as well as your strengths. There are plenty of examples of bad families but a good family would hopefully allow you to grow and help navigate this crazy world.”
We can use these images to imagine what family photos are all about—the making (and re-making) of history.