The Use of Family Photography to Trace Identity Changes

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As a photographer, I prefer to use photographs to record the changes in my life and family, and use them as a bridge to connect memories. Since I often move to a new place and change my living and studying environment, my concept of family is kind of vague. However, fortunately, photos can help me to remember my childhood and my family changes. Due to the fact that I live in Australia for many years and even regard Australia as my hometown though I come back to my home in China during each Christmas holiday, where is exactly my birthplace, so it is quite necessary to use photos to help confirm my actual identity. Therefore, in this paper, my thesis statement is that photos are the link between family memories and confirming the change of my identity. I will demonstrate the concepts about our thesis in details, analyze the reasons and draw upon the conclusions in the following parts.

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Keywords: memory, identity, childhood, autobiography, family


The core concept is that although photos do not represent all real thoughts and facts, family albums are still one of the most effective and reliable records. For instance, in Dag Nordbrenden’s example, he records his grief by using a family photo album. More specifically, every time he goes home, he finds that everything in his home has changed. However, in fact, both his family and himself has changed from since to then(Volpe,2016).

In addition, the photo album of the family may not reflect the true emotions and meanings, because it is very likely that some people are more optimistic when they are taking pictures, but in the essense, from the bottom of heart, they have not become so real and optimistic. In the next paragraph, we will illustrate how concept addressed visually and give an example as well. keywords: Photography, archiving, album, portrait,collectionMethodIn this paragraph, I will compare the two photos from two different periods, one is the past and another one is the present, reflecting the precise changes that have taken place in different stages. Based on the previous theory, some people hold the view that what changes is from family, but when contrasting the photos, we find out that the background such as furniture, decoration and even position in the photo do not change at all, just like before. Nonetheless, why do we feel the changes mentally? The answer is that our own change is even beyond recognition.

For example, the work of Annette Kuhn as a cultural theorist mainly focuses on the research of emotion change caused by new environment as well as tracking the trajectory from personal memory to collective memory behavior, which reflects how personal and collective memory is constructed and influenced by the cultural image around us. And we will address the relevant issues by Annette Kuhn in the following paragraph(Kuhn,2017). Annette Kuhn’s book is strongly associated with the concepts. To be more specific, her volume is a deconstruction of her own childhood photos. As an eight-year-old young girl, Annette assembled her own family photo album, including a portrait of her and her mother since her father was keen on photography. When she grew up, she faced psychoanalytic criticism and complex memory work, resulting in that Kuhn recalled her own childhood, which is a psychological study that is honest and painful(Babidge,2004). In spite of this, she eventually provided a theory that explains the complex memories in our daily lives, and the original cause of the entanglement lies in our childhood.

In addition, Annette Kuhn brilliantly links private history and public events, intimate memory and social theory together. We will further analyze this concept based on own previous experience in the next part. AnalysisI will discuss how this issue is tackled in terms of my own experience empirically and how it is consistent with Annette Kuhn’ opinion. For example, when I came to Australia and lived in a local host family, I thought it was not my family at first, because I felt strange to new people around me and all the things which i am not familiar with at this home, even completely irrelevant to me. This led to that I even thought that I was an outsider, which is difficult to integrate into life here. But as time went by and increasingly frequent communication with my host, I believed that I gradually became interested in this place and fell in love with this family. I even thought this was my family, and I did belong here since I got care and love from my host family, where the feeling was the same as my own home in China. Indeed, a new environment can actually affect a person’s life and ideas, and even more than just a person, a group of people around can be driven and influenced. Therefore, I will take some photos not only the person, but also the surrounding environment when every time I change a new place as a collection so that in the future, I will be warm and pleased when i reviewed the photos taken by that time. Why is photography important? Photography can speak. When I discovered and understood the photographic visual language, I saw that this language can convey information, educate and impress them in a world-wide audience without using words(Malcolm,1998). A successful photo story, when carefully edited, can be understood by most of people. Therefore, photography plays a critical role as a bridge to connect childhood memory and identity. People can also use photography to learn, to receive useful information and to understand our world, this is the charm of photography. Basically, photographers focus our attention on what we miss in our daily lives and direct our attention to things we experience. When they guide our eyes and mind with precision and honesty, we know the difference in our experience and understand more.


Based on the above two examples and my own experience, indeed, the photos will bring people some memories including happy and painful, and the important thing is our own mentality.

Furthermore, we explore the connection between photography and memory as well as identity. So we found that our childhood memories have not disappeared but just in another form which is deeply rooted in our morality and intuition. To sum up, the family photography acts as a connection between my memory and identity and it is proved that a new surrounding environment could actually affect our emotions and feelings as well.

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