THE SPIRIT OF FAMILY

Albert Gore, Jr., Author, Tipper Gore, Author, Tipper Gore, Joint Author
Albert Gore, Jr., Author, Tipper Gore, Author, Tipper Gore, Joint Author . Holt $35 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6894-8
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Complemented by a three-page introduction and a smattering of quotes from John Milton, Plato and others, this impressive collection showcases more than 250 photographs of contemporary American families, taken by the likes of Nan Goldin, David LaChapelle, Sally Mann and Nicholas Nixon. The so-called spirit of these images ranges from heartbreaking to smile inducing. Al and Tipper have arranged the photographs by theme (e.g., photos of farming families, families at mealtime, couples reading the paper, parents smoking around children, white children with black nannies, etc.). Without explanations, some are confusing, e.g., two little girls—one white, one black—stand side-by-side in their bathing suits. Are they sisters? Cousins? Friends? Yet this approach allows the more complex work here to maintain its socio-sexual zing. A nervous-looking bride walks through a park with her fiancé, while a couple sits on a nearby park bench, kissing. A trio of pudgy adults smiles as they dig into a meal of ribs, corn on the cob and Diet Pepsi. Teens mourn over the casket of a classmate. A laughing woman sprays a young girl with a garden hose. A family of four stands at a busy intersection in Manhattan, underneath a Calvin Klein billboard showing an underwear-clad hunk. The book includes families from all walks of life and potential voting demographics—and it is oddly successful at describing the beauty and awkwardness of family in its current incarnations, including same-sex couples. The ambient tolerance, plus a few less-than-clothed figures, may provoke responses from a variety of camps. (Nov. 12)

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