Capturing Familial Ties


Wrapped in Layers

As we come up to another chance to re-connect with our families, we are also given another chance to open a gift that is rarely opened. It isn't a physical or visible gift, it is something we hold deep inside our hearts, a gift that could be a Pandora's Box or the key to our release.

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Ties that Bind

A room filled with family is a room filled with memories that cling like unmelted snow flakes, each snow flake different from the other. We are connected by the similarity of our voices, our physicality and actions, yet we each try to be different. But the unmistakable familial ties surface when we are caught off guard.

A Son's Journey

Josh Schaedel's father lives in a hotel that charges by the week. He is an artist, carpenter, painter and journeyman. He also suffers depression and has an ongoing struggle with alcoholism. Josh is a photography student and the camera is one of the tools that he uses to slice away at the layers of his life. He is able convey a point of view that feels uncomfortably familiar.

Over six months Josh traveled south to visit his father, and each trip he brought only one roll of film. He would leave once the roll was done.

Film is a slow organic process. It is now what we would call a craft, similar to hand made furniture -- it takes time and skill to create (whereas digital photography allows us to view the image immediately and to take multiple photographs without worrying about "if we got the shot.") With film we don't know what we have until we go into the dark room and slowly wind it into the canister. As the hand and wrist turn the can with the film, it slowly washes it with chemicals to pull out the silver, and bring the image out. One turn too many will overdevelop the image, one turn less and it will be dark. Film is similar to life, we are never guaranteed what we envisioned.

Josh also sees film as a form of meditation, as defined moments of process and not knowing what he has till he exposes it to the light. The images are open questions that have no definitive answer, they act only as a catalyst to push us to question our own feelings about family ties.

The Gift

Josh's relationship with his father is caught in these images. Laid bare and without comment. These images are the gift that came from the heart and made visible. The common thread that binds family is love, and it is the acceptance that we willingly tied the knot that will set us free.


Shot with a Canon Elan 7n with kodak tmaxx 3200
Images: © Josh Schaedel
Website: JoshSchaedel

Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog

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