What do we inherit from our ancestors, our parents, our grandparents? What do we leave to our descendants? What percentage of a child’s personality traits, behaviour and interests are due to nurture? What percentage are due to nature? It will vary with every individual – some will be very like a grandparent in their mannerisms, others will speak in a similar way or tone to a parent, some siblings will look and act very differently to each other. In terms of appearances, people often try to spot the similarities, you often hear visitors who are calling to see a new baby and wondering which parent he or she resembles. It could also be argued that our fascination will family resemblances makes it tough for those who are adopted, however, adopted children often develop similar mannerism to their adopted parents. My own sister and I are not perceived by others to look alike as she is blonde and I am dark but if you were to change our colouring, we’d actually appear to be very similar in our facial appearance.
A Canadian photographer has been taking photos of various family members: brothers, sisters, parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts and uncles and creating a type of collage by effectively pasting two halves together. So the right side of a grandmother’s face is very neatly fixed to the left side of her grand daughter’s face – creating a juxtaposition of the two relatives faces in a project entitled ‘Portraits Genetiques’.
The photos that are most striking are those between grandparents and their grandchildren or between siblings of different sexes. It’s an interesting study – showing what we leave to our descendants and what we inherit from our ancestors. It also makes us study ourselves more closely. It makes me wonder how the exercise would show the differences or similarities between my two children and my half face as neither of them look particularly like me. Would I be able to identify the similarities more easily by having our photos juxtaposed? We see ourselves all the time but this exercise might make us examine ourselves more closely and wonder what we pass on beside dimples, freckles, high cheekbones and full lips.