“All the kids turned out right, thank God.”—Bianca’s father
“Once you have your children, you worry for the rest of your life.”—Bianca’s mother
San Francisco-based photographer Bianca Morra attempts to gather together the frays of her familial history in A Family Portrait. Shot in her home state of Florida after her parents’ divorce, Morra’s series is a poetic mixture of contemporary photographs and old home video stills. The contrast allows a deep and complex story to unfold. Through the record of their daily lives the characters of father, mother, brother and sister are presented in a patchwork of age and change. There is something missing, though all the pieces are present. Reaching into the blur of childhood while staring reality in the face, A Family Portrait is one self-professed collector’s struggle to piece together past memories and present pain.
Your series is told through your photographs, but also through your parents’ memories and their documentation of your childhood. Could the work be seen as a partial self-portrait?
“A self-portrait was not my intention. I wanted to make this work for my family to show my love for them in a way that I have a hard time articulating. The photographs, short film, and book are all created/curated by myself but I found that the raw materials ended up showing me more about myself and my family then I realized was possible. Sifting through the archives I was able to make connections and understand more about the things that have been subconsciously engrained in me from a young age. This project is a portrait of my family told through my voice, and in that sense, I realize now that it ended up being more of a self-portrait then I ever consciously intended.”
What do the home video stills lend to the work?
“Aside from providing a general framework and point of reference, the home video stills were most vital to the actual process of this project and helped guide me.
“I sat behind a tripod and photographed the television screen freezing moments in time from over 20 years ago. I was actively choosing which moments I wanted to keep from a time when I was too young to even speak or retain memory, let alone take a picture. These home video stills served as a preface to the rest of the work. The juxtaposition of the video stills and present-day photographs exposed a narrative within my family members individually and as a unit. I wanted to keep this project completely honest so beginning it with home video footage of our lives unaffected by any sort of imposed aesthetic was really important to me.”
Do you perceive your parents differently now as compared to when you were a child?
“In the middle of this project, I was so consumed with hours upon hours of watching old home videos that I would fall asleep hearing audio of my parents speaking to me as I was a baby. I would then get on the phone with them in present time and felt like I was talking to completely different people. Most kids have an untainted view of their parents when they’re growing up and I think that’s how it should be. Looking back, I see my parents were exactly what I needed them to be for me at that point in time.”
How do you think the way your parents raised you will affect the way you raise children?
“Regardless of whatever struggles we had or the way things have turned out, I’ve never once doubted the love my parents have for me. I want to give that kind of love to my children. I also fully plan to document their lives as incessantly as my father did for me. I am so grateful to be able to look back at times in my life that I am otherwise unable to remember.”