Polly Alderton’s photo series offers a candid yet romantic view of family life

Alderton photographs the nurturing and patience required in bringing up children – one shot shows a young boy being sick into a kitchen bowl, while another shows two brothers peeing simultaneously into the same toilet – as well as moments of joy, intimacy and growing independence. We may not know these children but their lives are immediately recognisable.
“I am hoarding too, giant vats of memories more reliable than my own; maybe? I’ll hunt each image for clues one day, I know it. There’s always been a piece missing.” Based in the UK, Polly Alderton has photographed for the Sunday Times, the Observer and the BBC among many others. Her series of family portraits are featured in the latest release by Open Eye Gallery and Setanta Press, who together launched a project last year to highlight work by emerging or unpublished photographers. A new book is published in the series every two months, and Alderton’s book marks the ninth release.
Polly Alderton is published by Setanta Books, priced £20 for a regular edition, £50 for a print edition; sentantabooks.com “It’s searching; endlessly enveloping our bodies into small gaps, under blankets, within bodies, muffling the sounds to gain clarity and find our way. Memory and sensation, when did I stop hanging upside down or pushing fingers deep into small holes to create big rips?” she writes in the book’s intro.
Her series taps into our growing obsession, especially since the advent of the smart phone camera, of photographing every moment of family life, in an attempt to preserve it in memory. “I make work around the family album,” says Alderton of the series. “A compulsion to document everything in between the front doorstep pictures on the first day of school and Christmas Eve outside the church. Alderton’s work examines family life in scenes that are both familiar and romanticised. Children are shown mucking about around the home, at times posing for the camera and at other times caught unawares. Many of the images are bathed in the golden light of twilight, conjuring up an immediate sense of nostalgia in images freshly taken.