Joshua Smith: The First Years
When I started writing about photographers using their families as subject matter in 2005, I was particularly intrigued about how father’s document childhood. Almost all of the fathers I featured shared the reality of being a parent–messy rooms filled with legos, the chaos of raising a child, particularly a son, the house in disarray, and the strained face of a challenged mother. Over the years, that approach to examining family began to change, as evidenced by the work featured today. Joshua Smith’s project, The First Years, is artful and poetic, and yet a truthful telling of parenthood. This work speaks to the rich stew of emotions, realities, and to the beauty, fragility, exhaustion, joy, and miracle of children.
Born in Springfield, Missouri, Joshua Smith earned his M.F.A. in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, and has been living and working in the Bay Area since 2004. Throughout his career he has explored various photographic projects, with his most recent being a body of work exploring the dynamics of family. Smith has exhibited widely within the Bay Area and beyond, including Stanford University, the a.Muse gallery in San Francisco, and SF Art Market. Smith is a photography instructor at Marin Academy and resides in Pacifica, CA with his wife and two sons.
The First Years
The First Years represents an on-going document of my expanding family. When my wife and I had two boys within two years of each other, we experienced a swift change in our family dynamic and had to confront the unknown. The unremitting demands of parenthood contained joy, tenderness, vulnerability,frustration and fear all at once. The weight of being fully needed by our children afforded us a sense of purpose, but also denied us our autonomy and individuality. As we worked to understand our intricate new roles as parents, our relationship shifted, resulting in a new connection, but also a sense of estrangement. These opposing experiences are echoed in the charged luminescence of the photographs. The light reveals and enlivens the surfaces it encounters, while simultaneously acting as a tool of erasure and reorientation. The resulting pictures serve as place markers for intangible moments of elation, fear and confusion—the dark and the light.
Under the guise of family historian, I continue to examine and better understand this new way of being. Through this process, I explore all the nuanced contradictions that exist within the complex and universal realm of family.
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