Family Portrait magazine is a reminder to celebrate the positive and embrace your loved ones
Founded by Brendan Freeman and SJ Todd, the magazine looks at the concept of family and its myriad manifestations.
- Ruby Boddington
- 18 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Right now, we bet you could do with a bit of a pick-me-up. And a healthy dose of positivity and warmth in the form of a magazine about family has brightened up our mornings working from home. Initially conceptualised by photographer, art director and publisher Brendan Freeman who quickly brought on board previous collaborator and friend, creative director SJ Todd, Family Portrait is a breath of fresh air amidst the current onslaught on anxious Instagram Stories and news updates.
The duo, who are both based in London, met while working at a design agency Brendan part-owned several years ago. “We remained friends and she was the first person I thought to approach when starting the magazine,” Brendan tells us.
It was during his girlfriend Kim’s pregnancy as the couple was expecting their first child, Leah, that Brendan initially got the idea for Family Portrait. “It started me thinking about family with our journey just about to begin; what family means and how it is viewed differently from person to person,” he recalls. The first issue which is now out in the world featuring contributions from Elaine Constantine, Samuel Bradley, Coco Capitán and many more also, importantly, features a dedication to Leah at the back.
Family Portrait is, primarily, a photo journal featuring contributions from a host of impressive names, all centred around a single theme. With little-to-no text, its a visual essay on the many ways this theme is felt by each photographer. Through several distinct stories it argues that family can mean anything: “it could be your partner or siblings but it could also mean your peers, your football team – even your pets,” Brendan adds.
On why they chose to keep the magazine so visually-led, SJ tells us: “The world we live in isn’t in the best state and there is currently a lot of negative energy that comes with that. We want to celebrate the positive by embracing our loved ones and just take things back to the core route of connection. Photography is a powerful tool and lets you primarily focus on emotion and the connection between two people or a group – that is what we wanted to explore and hoped to capture with the magazine.”
This notion is reflected in the design of Family Portrait which is understated and pared back, allowing for the imagery to take centre stage. “The magazine has always been about the imagery first – I never wanted to over power it with big bold text and a strict design guideline,” SJ says. With no credits or ads either, “it was approached with the language of a photo book rather than a magazine.” While there isn’t a strict visual language per se, Family Portrait does adhere to a certain tone, outlined by SJ: “We wanted to keep it fun, shy away from the general design trends of today, allow each story to be easily recognisable from one another and make sure the contributor’s personality was apparent in the story and the design needed to compliment the imagery.”
When pressed Brendan highlights a few of his favourite contributions. “Sean Thomas’ story jumps out,” he says. “Sean spent time with Fela Kuti’s family in Lagos, Fela is such a legend so it was amazing to see… Coco’s story with The Whippets, a female football team in east London of which both Coco and SJ are on the team – SJ is in a couple of the photos so it has to be a favourite! Finally, Glen Luchford’s – it’s so nice to see such intimate imagery of his son and see personal work from him. His story really does capture the energy and connection of family.” He also adds, however, that “each story brings so much and the imagery that features really did go above and beyond our expectations.”
Brendan and SJ are already working on their second issue, with the aim to release Family Portrait biannually. “There is so much more to explore on the subject of Family and look forward to see what the next contributors bring,” Brendan says, with SJ concluding: “We have started to receive submissions from photographers in the industry who have been sitting on stories appropriate for Family Portrait for a while and have never found the right publication to collaborate with. Our aim is for it to grow as organically and naturally as possible, so we’re excited to see what the next issue holds.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.