Christopher Anderson’s reflection on love, time and family revisited

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“These photographs are not a documentation or story telling or even art. They are declarations of Love”

Christopher Anderson’s latest book, SON, takes the form of an older series revisited. It is distinct from the photography for which he garnered critical acclaim. Documentary work, significantly the images he created on a small wooden boat alongside 44 Haitians attempting to sail to the US. The vessel eventually sank in the Caribbean. These earlier images are raw and gritty, depicting the fragility of life. However, following the birth of his first child, Atlas, in 2008, Anderson’s focus shifted towards his family. In 2012, he published SON, followed by Pia in 2020, with both books intimately documenting the time around the birth of his son and then his daughter. Now, publisher Stanley/Barker have re-released SON with 40 additional images charting Anderson and Atlas’ relationship up to today.

Anderson’s transition to photographing family life following Atlas’ birth coincided with his father’s lung cancer diagnosis. Naturally, SON became a reflection on life and death — a theme that echoes throughout Anderson’s previous reportage work. However, in this series, the photographer harnesses his ability to capture the joys and sorrows of life with beautiful subtlety. His images are not as confronting as earlier work. Instead, a rose-tinted palette engulfs each frame.

In SON, Anderson never directly addresses if his father is still alive. Rather, it remains an unanswered question — the only suggestion being his disappearance from the photographs as the sequence progresses. One image captures his father walking into the distance as Atlas and Anderson’s wife observe. We may read the frame as symbolic of the transition unfolding: the changing of the guard between generations of Anderson’s family. When reflecting on the work, Anderson says, “my senses were hyper tuned to the evidence of my own life passing.”

Anderson’s struggle with time comes through. In a letter to Atlas, he writes, “I can’t stand sacrificing even one day with you”. Indeed, the book feels like an attempt to preserve something of life’s fleeting moments. Anderson frames beauty in even the most mundane of domestic circumstances. And, in doing so, he pushes the viewer to meditate on the themes addressed independently and concerning their families as well. 

SON is published by Stanley/Barker.

Benedict Moore

Benedict Moore graduated from Manchester School of Art with a BA in photography this summer. He is currently London-based, working as a studio assistant at Big Sky Studios, and as a photographer and writer, specialising in photography and art.