This is the first book review from guest contributor Elyse Weingarten, a freelance writer living in New York.
From Schilt Publishing, photographer Louisa Marie Summer's book, 'Jennifer's Family,' is an intimate offering, capturing the experiences of twenty-six year old Jennifer, a second-generation Puerto Rican, her partner, Tompy, and their four children, at their home in South Providence, an urban area rife with poverty, crime, and high levels of unemployment.
Summer spent over a year with the family, and the results are confounding; in photographs of highly concentrated colors, it is not so much the stark details of the family's life that come into view, but the domestic heroism of Jennifer and Tompy, with their hands-on parenting and ability to survive economically, while often supporting other family members and friends.
With a few exceptions, the photographs in 'Jennifer's Family' were taken in the family's apartment, and at times, there seems to be little variation in theme. In photo after photo, children run through the apartment's cluttered rooms. This is one of the ways in which the book triumphs: life in the domestic realm is repetitious, and its recurrence only adds to the book's rightful claustrophobia. We can see how hard Jennifer and Tompy fight to give their children childhoods, and see how much they hope that if they fight hard enough, they can leverage their children into the next generation's middle class.
With 64 images and text by Mairead Bryne, this book is good for multiple viewings.
(I met Louisa Marie at an ASMP portfolio review two years ago, and I am thrilled to see this book as a result of a project that she had completed with such spirit. - Ed.)
All images © Louisa Marie Summer. Review by Elyse Weingarten.