Michele Crowe’s Portraits of Modern American Families

Curators’ Corner

Michele Crowe’s Portraits of Modern American Families

The Universal Family by Michele Crowe

A family portrait is a timeless treasure. Whether it hangs on a wall, sits on a bookshelf or lives in a wallet, family portraits have a lot to say about the time period in which they were taken.  In The Universal Family series, photographer Michele Crowe uses portraiture to capture the evolution and diversity of the 21st century family.  Crowe beautifully profiles present-day American households who no longer resemble the gender-stereotypical, racially homogenous families of decades past, but still emanate the same language of love and commitment.

A native of Long Island, New York, Crowe located most of her subjects in the Northeast by word of mouth, but she also traveled to Texas, California and Florida to photograph. Crowe ensured the shoots were laid-back, casual and friendly, with an ample amount of time devoted to learning about the families’ histories, personalities and stories before a single shot was taken.

“A family can be big or small, blood related or not, same sex oriented or not and of course composed of people with similar or wildly different cultural backgrounds. I believe if you’re lucky, you truly understand that love has no boundaries,” she writes about her project.

Although non-white and non-heterosexual families feature prominently in The Universal Family, Crowe is quick to defend her project’s ultimate goal: “to unite the human race through the spirit of family.”

“It’s not just about showing multicultural families,” she said. “It’s about all different types of families all over the world and saying we’re all coming from the same place; we’re all at home laughing and loving and I want everybody to see that.”

One day, Crowe hopes to compose her images into a book, complete with small stories and anecdotes from every family she had the pleasure to photograph. In the meantime, the young photographer is traveling to Europe, where she’ll be documenting families as part of a two-month, whirlwind adventure. According to Crowe, this is only the beginning of her journey.

“I feel I’m always going to be doing this project,” she said. “It’s just something I love to do and as long as I’m standing I’m going to be doing it. When I’m 80 or something I’ll have family portraits of the last century and then I’ll retire.”

For more photographs and information about The Universal Family, visit the project’s blog. Alternatively, learn more about Michele Crowe by heading over to her personal website.

The Universal Family Michele Crowe: Family Portrait

The Universal Family, Michele Crowe: Girls Jumping and Mothers Watching.

The Universal Family, Michele Crowe: Father and Daughter having tea.

The Universal Family, Michele Crowe: Family In Living Room Interacting

Photos courtesy of Michele Crowe