Can You Figure Out What’s Strange About These Family Portraits?


Pay a visit to photographer Jamie Diamond‘s website, and you’ll find that one of her projects is a series of family portraits. The images look like standard family portraits: the members are posed in different places and positions, there are older members and younger members; everyone’s dressed nicely, everyone’s smiling.

Look a little closer though, and you might notice that certain things are a bit strange… or should we say “stranger”?

The series is titled, “Constructed Family Portraits,” and here’s the twist: none of the people in the photographs are actually related.

Diamond created the series by finding random strangers in public and through Craigslist listings. Once she had groups of strangers she liked, she would tell them to meet her for a photo shoot in a rented hotel room.

The subjects would then be posed as a family and asked to smile as though they were.

“I am interested in the shifting paradigm of the traditional family structure and in the paradox of the familiar,” Diamond says. “The portraits are of actual people being themselves in an entirely new context; they intuitively follow the rules of the genre and the group they form for the camera ascribes them an identity.”









Here’s a video showing some of the strangers interacting:

You can find more of Diamond’s work over on her website.

(via Feature Shoot)

Image credits: Photographs by Jamie Diamond and used with permission

  • So Bad


  • Ken

    2008 MFA

  • Jay

    Most of those photos look very creepy :-/

  • Tom

    This looks like a classic example of people running out of ideas, who cares if they are strangers? What’s interesting about these photos? Nothing

  • gochugogi

    Jamie should her definitely keep her day job…

  • Aaron Tsuru

    Brilliant! Went to her site, really love the Mother Study series.

  • Dave

    I was certain what they had in common had something to do with bad drapes and/or bad carpeting.

  • Livinginashotgunshell

    Hello? Am I missing something here?

    How is what she did, any different than when we see those family stock photos that are used to fill in the frames that are sold in stores?

    You think THOSE people know each other? I am betting some might- most don’t.

    Not to berate the photographer but we really didn’t gain anything from this article or the photographer’s not so novel idea.

    I was expecting something really unique- exciting or even something to study closely for in the photo. Like some sort of trick or fool the eye technique.

    I think she does this kind of thing for her own gratification- which is fine.

    But to make an article out of it and for her to think what she is doing in choosing subjects is something special?

    No-there is nothing special here. In fact, is all sounds rather excessively time consuming.

  • harumph

    RE: “time consuming…”

    There definitely seems to be a trend of photographers who come up with an unnecessarily elaborate process and then end up with rather unexceptional photos. It’s never a good thing if you have to explain the gimmick to people.

  • Bill

    This is a joke, right? There’s a reason to look twice at these? Or a reason to look once? A solution in search of a problem might come close, but that would imply that these actually comprise a solution. Much like a joke, if you have to explain it, it’s a failure.

  • Bill

    Now if she could just live up to those three letters – even two of them – hell, one would be a start – we might see something interesting.

  • Vlad Dusil

    I was trying to find the hidden large mammal in each frame and didn’t.

  • 773metric

    It’s disheartening to see people be so hostile to projects they either don’t understand or don’t appreciate. It’s if they’re genuinely angry with the photographer. Maybe Jamie ran over their cat?

  • Jonty

    but why would you even bother? They’re not particularly artistic, so have no relevance to anyone but the taker

  • Burnin Biomass

    I understand the concept, but it holds no interest for me.

    That’s the danger in a conceptual series, the concept has to be somewhat engaging.

  • Burnin Biomass

    The mother studies were more interesting than these, that’s for sure.

  • Pau Aleikumsalaam

    Hahaha amazing work!

  • Norma normal


  • Tom Waugh

    These aren’t really family portraits are they? They’re group photos.

  • John R

    Clearly she is very good at posing people.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    They had a great Cindy Sherman quality about them.

  • Joy Swatsworth

    Really? Sometimes in the journey of trying to find ourselves in our art we lose ourselves to the pressure of being the more creative artists. Jamie this one is a loser.

  • Syuaip

    I don’t understand it. It must be Art.

  • ProtoWhalePig


  • scarlett mchale

    just as Katherine explained I cannot believe that some people can earn $5886 in a few weeks on the internet. did you look at this webpage w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • MMielech

    Well, that’s what you get when you mix Craigslist with the aspirations of an unemployed MFA in photography.

  • Courtney Navey

    STOP SPAMMING!! Petapixel you gotta catch these comments.

  • thingwarbler

    Not so much angry as profoundly confused… what is the point? So many things to do with a camera, so many ways to depict people in interesting, novel ways — and she chose… this?

  • lidocaineus

    It’s fairly meta. If you’re not into commentary on existing social constructs, it’ll come off as pedestrian. If you are, there are some interesting aspects to it.

  • tyrohne

    “it’s never a good thing if you have to explain the gimmick to people”


  • tyrohne

    I think most of us are creative types but this seems like a tremendous effort expended with little resultative merit. I love creative projects but the level of ‘meh’ in this one seems to be what I think most folks are reactive to. None of these images strike me as ‘strange’ any more than normal family portraiture except for the slightly over saturated look and dime store backgrounds.

  • tyrohne


  • Christopher Johnston

    I don’t see the point

  • Diego Jiménez Tamame

    Pretty pointless to me, sorry…

  • geodesigner

    “it’s never a good thing if you have to explain the gimmick to people” x1000

  • Chris

    “and here’s the twist: none of the people in the photographs are actually related.”

    I actually laughed out loud when I read this, what a twist! /Facepalm…

  • Opie

    I am… but there aren’t.

    This kind of self-referential art *can* be incredibly profound and thought-provoking. The success of the best of these ideas is what inspires lesser artists to attempt them, and almost invariably wind up producing this sort of mental masturbation. Artists who think their work says more than it really does are the reason the art world is so saturated with mediocrity.

    “Meta” for its own sake is probably the single biggest threat to fine-art photography, as far as I’m concerned. This series “asks” a rather pedestrian question, and the answer is no more compelling or unexpected.

  • lidocaineus

    I’ll take that as a valid opinion since you defended your position. @Tom’s was just a lazy complaint.

  • Paul Alexander

    do you remember that time, on the internet, when everyone with one name was an art critic. Fornicate under command of the king upon me in a direction perpendicular to the horizontal. Then again any opinion, good or bad, that has generated by a piece of art work has allowed it to fulfil its purpose.

    Bottom half of the net for the win again ;0)

  • Chris Pickrell

    It comes off as boring.

    First off, there is zero way of being able to tell they are strangers. At first I thought their heads had all been switched. I was sitting here trying to find something. “Oh, they’re all strangers?” How cares? Unless you’re TOLD that, there’s pretty much no way to know that.

    It’s not art as conceptual. It’s just “Look what I did.”

  • hero7

    Amazing, where can I send cheques to?
    Just kidding.

    I have no idea how these photographers make a living with this kind of “work”.
    My guess is, they don’t!

    Nice pictures… you have obtained my attention for 87 seconds. Congratulations?

  • Bill

    Ha HA….Simpson’s did it!!!

  • Opie

    Cool, I’m so glad my opinion merits such high praise. Despite being at least as well-reasoned as your response, I get no credit because I’ve remained anonymous? Or is it because you don’t like what I’m saying? Just because you’ve put your name on your comment means nothing with regard to the validity of your statement; mostly because all you’re saying is that I don’t have the right to my own opinion. The purpose of identifying oneself in this sort of context is to preclude ill-conceived responses from the dialogue, to maintain a level of accountability. I think it’s pretty clear my response upholds that standard. Lidocaineus clearly disagrees with me, but he’s also of high enough intellect to realize that my statement is acceptable because it’s well-reasoned and eloquently stated. That it’s part of a discussion, not a singlehanded decree.

    The bottom half of the net is not composed of people who post their opinion anonymously… assuming those opinions are well-reasoned and worthwhile. The bottom half is composed of people with simplistic viewpoints and unfounded superiority complexes.

  • Matthew Wagg

    If you have to explain the photograph, its a bad photograph. I don’t remember who said it but it rings very true for this. I like everyone else was looking for the hidden and would have never have known they weren’t related. Its just not obvious in any way.

  • Adam

    Waste of a perfectly good camera.

  • McGraffix

    And the award goes to….

    Having an idea is always nice. It gets you excited, gets the creative juices flowing. You start to develop it, experiment with it, alter it, expand it. Them you execute it and reflect on it. Did it work out in reality as it worked in your head?

    Now apply the above to art (or should that be: Art?). Replace “idea” with “concept” and suddenly you’re an artist! At least, nowadays. It’s sometimes even enough to just write it down, however crudely, and not ‘develop’ it, make it ‘real’. Whenever I´m at an art fair these days I find I´m almost jogging from entrance to exit, passing so many stalls with what´s supposed to be art, where I look but cannot find anything to explain why what´s exhibited has any merit in itself, without the need to read up on pompous artist´s statements that are like baked air but less savory and having the “idea behind the Work” (note the capital…) explained to me by by someone regarding me with a look I probably do not need to describe to you here. I often wonder, for example, while jogging past a wall full of photographical portraits, why they all look so similar, dull, zombielike and awkwardly posed. If I stop to stare, then it’s mostly because I’m baffled that the photographer actually received a big prize with them, even though they look the same as all the other portraits, albeit with a different background…

    If it’s the idea that seems to count more and more, why not just exhibit and hang the beer coasters with the scribbles on the walls? Safes a lot of space and you can still tell me the artist-related blurb stories.

    Like some of the other commenters, I was looking here for a surprise, something to intrigue, something wrong, disturbing or otherwise special. So I first looked at all the photographs, then read the article. While “disturbing” would not be the right word for my opinion afterwards, it does relate to my feeling of irritation when I found out that, actually, there’s nothing wrong, disturbing or intriguing to be found. Yes, they are portraits and yes, apparently there was an idea behind it. But if “A picture tells a thousand words”, I’d say these are of the mute variety. Start over and only come back with shots after figuring out what and more importantly HOW you want to tell us exactly without having to stand next to a print and having to tell me what I should be seeing, when in fact it’s not there even after the explanation.

    It’s not that I dont want my brain to have to work a little to understand something, to figure it out, to search and explore or be exposed to new stuff and surprised. i just don’t like to look at glorified beer coasters…

    As a PM, can I say that I REALLY don’t like the way these American hotels are seemingly all furnished with horrible carpets and drapes? I mean, it makes me want to add some – colorful – vomit stains….

  • pingo-bingo

    She clearly did a good job, otherwise it wouldn’t have captured your attention and you wouldn’t have comment on the post.
    Yes, it is rather boring and looks like BFA student’s work, but you are making her noticed by commenting on her work and retweeting in, even if it is negative response.

  • Dabull

    Certainly not the worst project I’ve seen…but its a close second!

  • Sugando Pulando

    Yeah, but I guess other people just want to piss in everyone’s cereal.

  • Ridgecity

    This is art! I’ll trade you one for a painting of my cat.