• Jill and Polly in the Bathroom, 1987
  • Graham Cracker Box, 1983
  • Daughter & Mother, 2002
  • The Daughters, 2002

The photographer reveals why she’s drawn to family portraits (see above) — plus, she shares her favorite mother-children images in the history of art.

I love photographing families because…

They form an interesting dynamic. I’m not sure I love photographing them. These portraits are made with a large-format camera and are quite complicated to produce.

The first family portrait I ever made was…

Sunday New York Times, which is a photograph of my great friends gathered for a wonderful morning ritual.

When photographing families, the first thing that always catches my eye is…

The gestures they use to communicate with one another.

The key to taking an interesting family portrait is…

There is no key to making photographs; it’s hard work, which includes much looking and paying attention.

The best advice my mother gave me…

Stand up straight.

My favorite mother-children images are…

Gertrude Käsebier — Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899
Henri Matisse — The Painter’s Family, 1911
Édouard Vuillard — Madame Jean Bloch and Her Children, first version, 1927–29
August Sander — Mother and Daughter (Helene Abelen with Daughter Josepha), c. 1926
Thomas Struth — Hannah Erdrich-Hartmann and Jana-Maria Hartmann, Düsseldorf 1987
Jan Groover — Untitled (Mother Holding Baby’s Hand), 1981
Rineke Dijkstra — Saskia, Harderwijk, Netherlands, March 16 1994
Patrick Faigenbaum — Famille Garzilli, Naples, 1990

And I love them because…

There is an enormous history of mother/child imagery throughout Western painting, which fascinates and delights me. It’s thrilling to be part of that tradition.

Photographs © Tina Barney, courtesy Janet Borden, Inc., NYC

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