In July 2011, the Whitechapel Galley launched a major retrospective of the work of Thomas Struth. In the same year Struth was commissioned to take a portrait of the Queen (currently on display in The Queen: Art and Image). Now, the National Portrait Gallery have unveiled a small display of Struth’s portraiture, comprising three images: The Hirose Family, Hiroshima, 1987; The Smith Family, Fife, 1989; and The Bernstein Family, Mündersbach, 1990.
Struth’s portraits are simply staged, with little direction given to the sitters. The families arrange themselves, and are asked to follow just one rule: everyone must look directly in the camera. Each image captures three generations, inviting the viewer to imagine the relationships between the individuals.
For Struth, the family portraits suggest inter-connectedness and individuality, representing both a shared genetic heritage, and the context in which individual personalities, psychologies and appearances are formed. Exploring age, relationships and identities, they are, in Struth’s words, ‘condensed slices of an epic drama arrested in a certain moment’.
Thomas Struth’s portraits are on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London, until 20th January 2013. For more information visit www.npg.org.uk.