What happens when the family photo album becomes art?

Few artists have the access (let alone the perseverance) to follow the same subject for decades. So when the artist’s muse is his own child, it presents a unique opportunity. Case in point: photographer Jack Radcliffe’s haunting portfolio documenting the life of his daughter from infancy to adulthood, titled simply Alison.

A stunning series in black and white, the photos walk a fine line between exquisite and intrusive, caring and unsettling, as Alison grows from thoughtful child to striking punk teenager to obviously troubled adult. “I wanted to photograph her in all her extremes,” Radcliffe writes in his introduction, “and to be part of these times in her life without judging or censoring.”

In On Photography, Susan Sontag called photographs “an ethics of seeing.” It’s difficult to look at this work and not wonder what would have happened, to both his art and to Alison, if Radcliffe had censored or judged — or chosen a different subject altogether.

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What happens when the family photo album becomes art?