Sophie and Theo
Sophie, 41, and Theo, 50, have 4 children between them: baby Olive, born just 4 months ago and Sophie’s daughters Katie, 8, Harriet, 10, and Theo’s son Isaac, 5. It’s a busy household and while the children have adapted well to their new family dynamic, there’s little time for reflection.
Theo and Sophie decide they would all benefit from a collective established family Portrait: something they can all contribute to, encouraging them to appreciate their extended family, as well as addressing any issues encountered along the way. They ask me to help tell their story.
Before long, we have input from everyone and whilst there is a lot of common ground, it’s the individual viewpoints that make their text truly theirs. By the end, we have an exuberant, tender and honest record of family life.
Like them, it is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Andre, Darryl and Jamal
Andre couldn’t be more proud of his sons: Darryl, 17, about to start college, and Jamal, 20, already at uni. Raising two boisterous boys as a single dad while working full-time hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve come through it. Darryl and Jamal know they owe their dad a lot.
Now the boys are embarking on adult lives, Andre considers how a Portrait in Prose commission might help them reflect how far they’ve come. Realistic about the likelihood of all being in the same place for long enough, he’s happy for me to contact the boys directly to gather their thoughts. He’d also like me to involve their grandmother, Bernice, a mainstay of family life.
Andre and Bernice soon realise they may have underestimated how much insight their boys have gained along the way. Their text, framed, proves to be a definition of what family means to them all.
Veronique and family
Not one member of Veronique’s family lives in the same country as another. Her elderly grandparent, parents and two sisters reside all across the world. It’s fair to say they’ve made Skype and WhatsApp their own since the last of them relocated.
Now that Veronique’s sister Charlotte is expecting a baby and inevitably missing close family support, they’ve all had cause to find new ways of reaffirming their relationships, albeit long distance. The result? A Portrait in Prose designed for established families.
Modern technology means there’s no barrier to sharing ideas for the text, developing a structure and gathering the responses we need – and by creating their commission digitally, with the expertise of Charlotte’s husband Lorenzo, a graphic designer, we’re able to ensure everyone is able to access it freely and, if they want to, at the same time. The nature of the collaborative approach ends up epitomising its reason for being.
Hannah Wroe Gill | Portraits in Prose