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Stay Together: Creating Impossible Family Portraits

By // July 10, 2013 // Posted in Industry News, Photography, Portrait, Software, Video

The video-chat and instant-messaging software company Skype has recently opened a new door to connecting people from around the world. The Stay Together campaign offers the opportunity to take portraits with a family member or loved one who can’t otherwise pose for a photo in person. Working with photographer John Clang, who made the series “Being Together” that involves this same concept, Skype projects a live image of one of the user’s on a wall, allowing the other user to stand next to the projection for an “impossible family portrait.” The series offers people overseas, for whatever reason, the chance to gather for one virtual, surreal moment together.

After relocating to Pennsylvania, Denis, a native Ugandan, poses with his family who stayed back home. © John Clang, Skype

The first in the Stay Together series is “The Impossible Family Portrait” of Denis, a native Ugandan who had to flee his wartime country suddenly without his son, his belongings, photos of his family or remembrances of his past. Denis kept in touch with his family and his son via Skype, and for the first time since he left, stood next to them for a virtual family portrait. “The last time I saw these people together in the same place, there wasn’t this smile because we’d just been through so much,” Denis says in Skype’s YouTube video of his story. “So to see them today with this smile on their face, it’s really something.”

Upon returning to Alabama from her trip to Australia, Lindsay poses with the people (and animals) she met along the way. © John Clang, Skype

Though wild animals are not typically included in family portraits, they are for Lindsay, whose Skype photo is called “The Animal Family Portrait.” After graduating college, she moved to Australia and worked at the family-owned Caversham Wildlife Park where she learned every aspect of caring for animals and became part of the Caversham family, she says in her video. But when her VISA ended, Lindsay moved back to her native Alabama to work at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, and she kept in touch with the Cavershams. “It’s an amazing experience to have the people who live so far away with the animals I love the most in my living room, even though they’re a world apart,” she says in the video. “For a moment we were a zoo.”

Even though Julia moved to California, she still poses for a portrait with her best friend and cousin, Marina, who stayed in Brazil. © John Clang, Skype

Julia, who describes herself as a “hint of American and Brazilian all slammed together” in her video, poses with her best friend and cousin Marina in “The Growing Up Family Portrait.” Julia and her immediate family moved to California, leaving behind Marina and the rest of her extended family in Brazil. Despite the differences between them (Julia is 10 years old, loves to dance and doesn’t care what people think of her; Marina is 12 years old, “is not really a dancer,” and “wants to look good and stuff,” Julia says), they still keep in touch and remain close. “It’s weird how I’m all the way over here and how in two seconds we can see each other, literally see each other,” she says.

Skype is also offering a chance to win an impossible family portrait.

Is this a concept that could seep into the realm of professional photography, and if so, how would it take shape?

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Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson is the associate editor of Rangefinder. She graduated from Indiana University’s School of Journalism last year and moved to New York, starting off as the magazine's editorial intern. Having had a full-immersion French education growing up in her native Minneapolis, she especially enjoys writing about culture, design, and the arts.

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