The images seem at first glance like family snapshots taken by an unusually facile photographer. Well-composed, poignant, in focus, they are clearly the work of a new father besotted by his family.
Christopher Anderson’s “Son” is indeed a love poem to his wife, Marion Durand (a photo editor at Newsweek); their 3-year-old son, Atlas; and Mr. Anderson’s father, Lynn.
But it is also a meditation on life and death and loss and renewal by a 41-year-old photographer who is struggling with the layers of cynicism that have accumulated over many years of covering war and conflict.
“I found myself getting pretty pessimistic,” he said. “When you see how badly people can treat one another, you ask yourself: ‘What is it all for? What does it all mean?’ The moment you hold your child in your hands for the first time, all those questions are answered. There’s a new sense of hope and rebirth, and also a true understanding of your parents for the first time. You get to know all the fears — and all the love — that a parent has.”
In some ways, “Son” was easy. Mr. Anderson’s family was right in front of him and he was going to photograph them anyway. But the project also proved difficult, as he documented a father quite ill with cancer and tried to reconcile being a war photographer with being a responsible parent, husband and son.
There are at least two kinds of photographic bravery: the bravery of those who risk life and limb to show the world the ugly truths of war and conflict, and the bravery of those who push themselves in long-term, intimate projects — confronting themselves while documenting their subjects. There is no hierarchy of bravery.