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The Power of Family Portraits

In the editor’s letter of the Dwell magazine March issue, Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron writes about the power of interior design.

Interior design is about manifesting comfort and pleasure in an environment sheltered from the world at large. It’s about summoning the power of the senses to communicate feelings of safety and ease. Interior design is about creating spaces in which one can live on one’s own terms.

Her words perfectly encapsulate not only the effect of interior design in general but specifically, the power of family portraits. This is the result of displaying contemporary, emotion-filled family portraits in your home.

Thoughtful, beautifully captured and displayed family portraits speak comfort and pleasure into your home in a way other artwork cannot. There is no art more personal to your family – no art more authentic – than portraits of the people you love most in the world and the way you interact together.

And your family portraits should definitely be authentic. This is your personal space “sheltered from the world at large”. Your family portraits should not consist of perfect robots smiling at the camera with a tight-faced grin. Rather, your kids should be smiling their crooked smiles and leaning in for a hug. You should be relaxed and laughing at their antics or rolling your eyes at their sarcasm.

I fully understand that last sentence may cause panic for those of you who cringe a little (or a lot) at the thought of being in front of the camera. But relax. It’s not your job to make yourself look natural in front of the camera, it’s your photographer’s. You are not expected to know what to do, other than to love on your children the way you do in your best moments as a parent.

Much as Amanda Dameron states interior design is about creating spaces in which you can live on your own terms, the same can be said for family photographs. There is no ‘right’ way to pose for family portraits, there’s only your way.

Yes, I will pose your family in a way that looks pleasing in photographs so you know where to stand and what to do with your hands. But then, when I ask you to cuddle your kids or gaze down at them, do that in the way you usually do. When I tell you to let your kids run free while you smile at them, do that. Without worrying that I will ‘get something’. I will, and it will be true to you and your family.

Perhaps the most powerful line from the editor’s letter is the role of interior design in “summoning the power of the senses to communicate feelings of safety and ease”.

If we’ve had a conversation longer than five minutes, you’ve likely heard me talk about the science behind daily subconscious exposure to family photographs displayed in your home and the effect on your child’s sense of self-esteem, acceptance and belonging. This is not an intangible, theoretical premise. Those family portraits hanging on your living room wall literally communicate feelings of safety and easy to your children, regardless of their age. This is the power of family portraits.

Given the context, I suspect the sentiment in the editor’s letter is directed at adults however, it is especially true for children. What I wish most for your family after your portraits have been delivered and I’ve long since left, is that through those family photographs your kids know they have a safe place to land. No matter what happens they know that you have their back; you’re their tribe.

Kudos to Dwell Magazine for a powerfully written opening to the March issue. May your family photographs and the design of your home invoke all the feelings of comfort, pleasure, safety and ease so eloquently expressed.

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