It’s not every day that you come across a photography project with so enormous a reach and so engrossing a subject that you find yourself losing hours flicking through its images, but that’s exactly the case with Uwe Ommer’s 1000 Families. Uwe, a German photographer, spent four years travelling around the world, driving almost 160,000 miles in the process, and photographed countless families across Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania with a medium format camera.
He did stop there though, even writing down the story of each one, and painstakingly compiling them all in a magnificent publication to make, as he describes it, “the largest and most beautiful kaleidoscope there has ever been." The photographs and their stories are all available to view on the 1000 families website, and if you don’t look at anything else today you should take a look at this; the images capture the universality of family affection in a way that no other project does, with an honesty and a poignancy that I don’t think I’ve ever seen on film before.
You can also read Uwe’s own story on there, where he tells about the hilarious situations he found himself in, and the chain of events which led him to the end, including “see my hair turn white, get married in Las Vegas, use up thousands of films of every kind and format, endure and make countless toasts to everyone’s success and good health.” The project was finished almost 15 years ago, but like all the best ideas it looks absolutely timeless, and is unlikely ever to lose its relevance.
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