New York City-based commercial and editorial photographer Augustus Butera began a long-term project about his partner’s large family, The Warrens, in 2002. He tells PDN via e-mail. “After more than a decade of taking their picture I would have to say that it is much easier to photograph someone else’s family and not necessarily your own.”
He adds, “This really did not start out as any kind of project. When I first began dating my partner, he spoke of many summer days in his early childhood [spent] sitting up a tree reading, while hiding from his five younger siblings … for hours. Later he spoke of the hardship of being kicked out of his house at 16 and having to fend for himself with no family contact at all until his 20s. Nineteen nieces and nephews later, when I entered the picture, the family wounds seemed to have healed. Or had they?
“I was intrigued by the outward appearance of a happy and tight-knit family contrasted with the painful past that was revealed to me. I found that bringing out my camera was a way to ease my shyness around the new ‘in-laws’ and explore the dichotomy as I saw it. It was also a good way for me to get involved in the yearly milestones while finding my new voice as an uncle and a brother-in-law.
“This became a project about finding out for myself who these folks were that I would be sharing the rest of my life with.”