When most of us think of family photography, we think of images imbued with nostalgic memories of warm childhood houses and an age of innocence. Photographer Charles-Henry Bédué uses this concept as a starting point for his ongoing series The House of Happiness, but instead of capturing the happy connotations of domestic life, he photographs the darker, somewhat disturbing corners of the family home.
The idea is informed by the “tender and cruel” nature of fairy tales; stories suffused with happily-ever-afters and unending evil at the same time. As a result, Charles-Henry depicts the family house as “a spiritual playground, an imaginary space populated by symbols and enigmatic images”. He began the series by documenting his own family house twelve years ago. After a year he extended the project to include other people’s families, using social networks and word of mouth to get in touch with unknown families to take part in the project.
Photographing a dozen different families in France over the last year, Charles-Henry remarks how this is “just the beginning” for his unique series. Recently published into a book of the same title, and printed in an edition of 300, it captures a different side to the family home, transforming banal moments into intimate works of photographic art.
In one image, a mother passes a child an orange. Though this action seems unremarkable and perfectly ordinary, Charles-Henry elevates it to appear more like a Renaissance painting. Highlighting the dusky blue light shining through the window to eerily frame the majestic-looking moment, Charles-Henri’s captures idiosyncratic moments of intimacy such as these through a sinister lens. In a similar vein, all of the images in The House of Happiness reconstruct family photos into something more mysterious.
“My aim is to transform a person’s feeling from one particular day,” says the photographer. As well as capturing a certain emotion, he also hopes to translate “a relational and artistic experience” from behind the lens, to the forefront of the image. “My photos are invitations,” Charles-Henry adds on his work. For a long time, he contemplated the purpose of his photography, questioning his imagery “in a world that is completely saturated with other images”. Eventually, he realised that photographs can be much more than the objects themselves – “an image is not an end in itself” he says “but a means to unite”. With this in mind, Charles-Henry hopes to not only unite oneself with others, but also to unite the viewer with themselves by looking at the work and questioning its meaning. But fundamentally, for Charles-Henry and the subject, the most enjoyable part of the project is that “it is fed by the unexpected desire of the stranger, that’s the most exciting part for the subject, and for [Charles-Henry], to have an experience to share” that unites the two.
- Sophie Williams shares intimate behind-the-scenes footage from Mura Masa's latest music videos
- Wide-eyed and scratchy-haired, read the twisted diaries of Irene Montemurro
- Lazy Susan, the mother of all inventions, comes to life in Terri Timely's short film
- “I’ve always felt like this is not my happy place”: Rankin on his relationship to fashion
- Steamy scenes of fun and fur: meet Sophie Larrimore’s puffy pooches
- From 3D in-browser games to cinematic portfolios: it's November’s Double Click
- Pentagram rebrands Warner Bros. with a “sleek and clean” update to its shield logo
- Manchester Girls, the new series from Dean Davies, is a visual homage to the women of the north
- Relive the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer through Summer of Something Special
- Viktor Hübner photographs American anxieties amongst a shifting political environment
- Jiří Makovec’s photographs meander between the personal and the universal
- Berlin Wall graffiti is made into a typeface to warn how "division is freedom's biggest threat"