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Bringing Families Together When They're Apart

“Ultimately, a good photograph is one that brings us face-to-face with our own existence,” says New York-based photographer John Clang. His intimate series “Being Together” does just that.

In Being Together, Clang uses Skype and video projectors to create a portrait of far-flung families as if they were all together in the same place. His photographs of these projections force viewers to consider the realities of modern family life and relationships.

Clang moved from Singapore to New York City in 1999. He and his family suffered from being so far apart, but – in the 13 years since his move – huge advances in technology helped to assuage some of that longing. Now Clang uses Skype to see and communicate with his parents on a regular basis.

He came to realize that, in this new era, the people with whom we are closest are often not physically present in our lives. Clang says, “I have always wanted to do a family portrait with my parents but I wanted something that truly express my longing and my sense of absence. So the idea of using a Skype projection worked perfectly. It creates the image that really shows what I feel.”

Clang orchestrated and shot the original portrait with his own family in Singapore in 2010 (a video of the experience can be seen here). He reminisces, “The process moved me very much and I had the idea to extend it to other families.”

He reached out to other families and captured their portraits at home in places such as Tokyo, Connecticut, Hong Kong and Washington State. The complete “Being Together” series of 40 portraits will soon be on display in a solo exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore beginning in early 2013.

As for how Skype is influencing art, Clang explains, “Art is about our imagination and the immediacy it brings to the viewers. Skype is a big part of that. It delivers instant images and sound that inspire our imaginations.” And for the future of Skype and his work, Clang daydreams, “Maybe in near future generations ahead of us, Skype can be 3D.”

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