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Family

by Lauren Dukoff
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Publishing date: 03/06/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780811866620
  • ISBN: 0811866629

Synopsis

For many years Lauren Dukoff has been photographing close friend and musician Devendra Banhart and an extended loose-knit international family of artists who share inspiration variously from folk Tropicalia and each other, as well as a range of other musical influences. This lovely hardcover album collects Dukoff's striking portraits and candid images of Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Bat for Lashes, Feathers, Espers, Vetiver, Bert Jansch, Vashti Bunyan, and many others individually and together in performance and more private spaces. The 150 full-bleed color and black and white photographs are complemented by a foreword by Banhart text and artwork by the musicians, artist biographies, and a digital download featuring songs by some of the artists in the book.

Read a Q&A with Photographer Lauren Dukoff and Singer-Songwriter Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart: Do you see any connection between Photography and Magic?

Lauren Dukoff: I remember the first time I looked through the lens of a camera, it felt magical. I was about 11 years old and I was in Bali with my family. I woke up really early one morning, due to the time change, and found my father out on the balcony photographing the sun rising over the ocean. He handed me his old 35mm camera and said “Lolo, take a look through this.” I panned the camera across the horizon and then pointed it at my father’s face and I got this overwhelming rush of excitement. Somehow everything looked even more beautiful when I looked at it through the camera lens. I guess things just seem more intense though the lens because you’re focusing all of your attention on the visual and putting your other senses momentarily to rest. I remember I thinking I never want this to end; I want to stay here forever. Even today, because I still shoot film, there’s always this element of surprise and mystery to the process. I don’t get to see my images right away on a screen, like you do with digital; I have to wait for my film to be processed. You never really know what's going to come out of a roll of film once it goes into the developer. When I get my film back from the lab it reminds me of the feeling of seeing a magician pull a 10-foot handkerchief from his pocket. Sometimes the results are not what I expected and I’m like, “Where did that come from?" But that's part of why I love to shoot film; that imperfection and unpredictability can be magical.

DB: Is the camera your friend? When you wake up in the morning, do you say something along the lines of "Hey pal! Good morning, how did you sleep? Good! It's gonna be a long day of takin’ pictures. Let's just try and have fun no matter what, OK?" to your camera?

LD: I guess in some ways my camera is like a friend—or maybe more like a companion that goes places with me and makes me feel like I’m not alone. It can make me feel braver, and give me a sense of purpose. I remember photographing Ramblin' Jack Elliott in our hotel room in Camber Sands England at ATP. He was performing right there in front of us and I just felt so nervous and awkward in his presence. I mean, this is a guy who learned how to play guitar from Woody Guthrie and influenced Bob Dylan! But when I held the camera up to my face, I felt a sense of calm and purpose being there in that room; I had a job, and that job was to document that beautiful moment. I'll never forget that night. At the same time, a camera is only a tool. The real magic is what happens between the photographer and his or her subjects. The tools you choose to use--which camera; which format; which type of film--all affect the outcome of the image and it's an evolving process of trying different combinations till you feel you've kind of found a style of your own. I've been told I have a distinct style, but I still feel like I'm still trying to figure it out. I want to keep learning and growing. In the end, it's the emotion and the connection you make with your subject that makes an interesting photo. You can buy all the fancy and expensive photography equipment in the world but it won't change the core purpose of your work, and for me that is to tell the story and express the emotion of a moment that has passed.

DB: Could you tell us a little bit about this book of yours that Chronicle is putting out?

LD: It's called Family. As you know, we tried out all sorts of different titles and you even helped me brainstorm for other ideas, but Family was the only title that really explained the experiences I had taking these photos, and the feelings I get when I think about all of the artists in the book and their relationships with one another. I've done hundreds of photo shoots, but I've never experienced as much warmth and kindness as I did when I was shooting the people in Family. Some of the artists--like you and Matteah [Baim] and Isabelle [Albuquerque]--were already close friends and practically family, but there were other people who I’d never even met before but who still welcomed me into their most intimate spaces: living rooms, bedrooms, recording studios, and favorite secret spots. From Vashti Bunyan's kitchen in Edinburgh to Natasha Khan's bedroom in Brooklyn to the Feathers' favorite riverbank in Brattleboro, Vermont, I was accepted with open arms and treated like an old friend or even well, family.

DB: Do you know how much I love you and think yer the best photographer ever?

LD: Yup! Do you know how much I love you and think you are the best subject, muse, friend, and musician ever. I sure hope you do.

Take a Look Inside Family
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Family at the Beach (L. Dukoff) Devendra Banhart (L. Dukoff) Johanna (L. Dukoff)


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  • Beautiful book captures the moments and life of The Family
    From Amazon

    The core audience of this book may be people who are fans of the artists, but if you are not, or if you have not heard of these artists, you may also enjoy this book as an artistic endeavor. Fear not, the book introduces these artists to us in many different ways. I was not familiar with these artists before the book, so my review is from that perspective... The photographer, Lauren Dukoff, produced a photo-album - capturing the moments and the life of a group of musicians - the Family. In this particular case, the photographer herself is also part of the Family, which makes this book an even more intimate and in-depth look at the musicians and personalities. Obviously, if you are familiar with the artists, you can have a better appreciation of the different photographs, scenes and expressions. There are different types of photographs in the book - performance shots, portrait-style photos, and snapshots of life and the fleeting moment. There is black and white, there is color, there is reflection, spontaneity, costumes, emotion, and a few pictures that capture "the moment". The book also includes instructions on how to download eight mp3 songs from the artists in the book - this is a great idea for non-fans, as they can get a sampling of the featured artists. A smart thing to do! The book itself, from a book-perspective is beautifully crafted, with a foreword by Devendra, and an introduction by Lauren who gives us the background story and introduces the artists to us. The main "dish" are the photographs themselves, sprinkled with artwork from the artists themselves. At the end of the book, we find plenty more: poetry from the artists, bios for all artists featured in the book, and a list of all the photographs shown, in thumbnail format, mentioning where each picture was taken and who is featured in the picture. This is very helpful if you are not intimately familiar with the artist. All the photographs were taken with film cameras, as the photographer prefers to use that medium over the convenience of digital. And this is perhaps evident in the pictures, as film is a better suited format for capturing the mood and emotion of this beautifully crafted book.

  • Interesting concept best left for fans
    From Amazon

    I like the overall concept of this book, which is the combination of music, art, and the "family" that this union creates. It probably helps to be a fan of Davendra Banhart and company, but one does not need to really be all that familiar with his music in order to appreciate the photographs and "spirit" of this book. I like the overall feel of the book, but I believe that its concept outshines its content. If you are a hardcore fan of Mazzy Star, Davendra, Vediver, etc...then you will probably adore this book. I enjoyed it, I appreciate what it is, but that's about it.

  • lovely pictures, lovely packaging
    From Amazon

    Family is both a beautiful book in the inside and in the outside (if you can say it in English :) ) I mean is a beautiful object, because is a big violet book, and Lauren pics inside are amazing, so dreamy and inspiring. I heartly recommend you to buy it if you love music and good photography.

  • 2 1/2* We Are Family (but you're not)
    From Amazon

    From the interview betwen author/photographer Lauren Dukoff and best friend/mentor musicianDevendra Banhart DB: Do you know how much I love you and think yer the best photographer ever? LD: Yup! Do you know how much I love you and think you are the best subject, muse, friend, and musician ever. I sure hope you do. Want a little more love? Here's a sampling of Devendra's (well, I SO feel on a first name basis now) from his foreward: "Lo is my sister: not by blood, but by love, and this is her book." "The lens draws in the lightl the eye draws the light in." I'm in awe of everyone in this book. I love everyone in this book. I owe everthing to the people in this book." That's all beautiful and stuff, but, not being in the book myself, these oddly self-important book suffuse the sense of exclusivity emanating from Lauren Dukoff's photographs of her (mostly) musican friends. Dukoff herself write a much more straightforward account of her progression from amateur and chronicler/hobbyist to a professional photographer, forming ever-enlarging circels of friends, mostly tied to Devendra Banhart. At least Ms. Dukoff's introduction gives us a glimpse in the feeling of the family and the depth of intimacy she must feel. However, the collection itself doesn't have this same sense of intimacy, and this is a shame, because if this collection of kindred spirits is as close as we're told, we ought to feel it in the photos. Instead, we have semi-worshipful photos of the musicians by themselves, shots of el profundo poetry on a wall, spictures that, for all their authentic lack of composition and feeling of spontaneity, fail to communicate any community or much emotion. If I knew the people in this book, their "back stories" I might smile more in recognition, but for the most part, they remain strangers to me, a clubby group of musicians with a dandified psychedelic fashion sense trying to fashion a "hippie" sensibility. I don't know how authentic it is, or what others think of them (there are almost no shots of the family interacting with others), because I don't feel I know them. An artist should maybe give a little more to the audience, I'm thinking. THe best photos show her friends performing (although some of these show the same distance), some beautiful, unadorned close-ups portraits, usually black and white and with high contrast. Frankly, I could have donw without at least half the pictures, and about 90% of the self-indulgence/indifference to the reader. Those are much-loved , I'm sure, by the family members, but those invited for a glimpse into this family may come away feeling like strangers at a Christmas party. Aside from the photographs that were satisfying and the story of Ms. Dukoff's rapid yet humble ascent, I appreciated that identifying information (left ot right, we see person a, person b, and person c) is left to a concluding "list of photographs" at the conclusion of the book, smaller reproductions (like a photo sheet)identifying the events, person(s), the location, and the date. The concept is excellent-- especially in these sometime days of fear and isolation, but the photographs don't break down the insider/outsider boundaries; they're liberating for the family, but not for us.

  • Where hippie meets hipster
    From Amazon

    Nothing wrong with creating a photo album of friends and family, but one wouldn't expect a personal photo album to justify mass production. These photographs don't quite stand on their own merits -- show them to people who've never heard of Davendra Banhart, and you're likely to get a "so what?" -- and a few should probably be submitted to LATFH, but for serious fans this is probably a treasure-trove of revelatory images.

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