Long distance family portraits via Skype

[From The New York Times Magazine, where eight portraits are featured; more information and portraits are available on John Clang’s web site]

Futuristic Family Reunions

Be Here Now

Julie Bosman
June 1, 2012

In Singapore, it is a common practice for entire families to gather on special occasions for a formal picture, often at a studio, with the resulting image framed and prominently displayed at home. The growing tendency of younger family members to take jobs abroad, however, has left many modern portraits missing a relation or two. So the Singaporean photographer John Clang devised a solution, piggybacking on the video-calling technology that already helps ease the dislocation of separated family members: Skype. Clang, who is based in New York, tried this with his own family first, then used the Internet, embassies and recommendations from friends to track down other Singaporean families with members there and in far-flung places. Those in Singapore stood before their webcam-enabled computers and called their distant relatives on Skype. In these various locations, Clang projected the Skype image onto a wall and then photographed the callers together with their flesh-and- blood kin. No Photoshop was needed, and the entire process is simple enough for people everywhere to take advantage of in migratory times. ‘‘It bridges the gap between the two families that are apart,’’ Clang says. One subject was Alexia Wai-Chun Tye, a 50-year-old investment adviser who has lived in Paris since 1999. Her 24-year-old daughter, Stephanie Chi-Weng Tsui, was educated there and in London but moved back to Singapore to take a job as an account-planning executive at Saatchi & Saatchi. Tye can be seen here posing in her Paris apartment with her partner, Pierre de Fouquet, a 57-year-old venture capitalist, while her smiling daughter beams in from Singapore. The picture, Tye says with satisfaction, was “like a virtual family reunion.’’ Clang will have an exhibit of his Skype portraits at the National Museum of Singapore in 2013.

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