One of my first assignments in an advanced Photoshop class was to make a composite in which one person appeared in the image multiple times. The assignment was called “Bring in the Clones.” We had studied the work of Henry Peach Robinson, one of the most prominent art photographers of his day. His first and the most famous composite picture, “Fading Away” (1858) was both popular and fashionably morbid. He was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites and was influenced by the aesthetic views of John Ruskin.

I began the assignment by going through my archive to find a background on which to assemble a composite. The Idea to create a portrait of my ancestors as immigrants, came to me when I found an image of the Registry Room, on Ellis Island. I had taken the photo a few years before, while on a family trip to New York City.

My wife Lori, our son Wynn and I, dug through our wardrobes to find vintage looking clothing. Lori and I had it easy, once we were dressed we just had to sit back and look stoic. Wynn, on the other hand, had to change three times and each time invent a different persona.

Back then, there was no “One and Done” philosophy, couples had many children to help with the daily chores and there were no child labor laws. The more children you had the greater the family income. Infant mortality was much higher then as well.

Final image is a composite of four photographs, The registry room, the triangle composition of Myself, Lori & eldest Wynn, then Wynn with glasses and bow tie, and last but not least, Wynn as his own sister, which I’ll bet comes up in a therapy session, or two, at some point in the future. I’m sure my parenting skills will be called into question. Whether or not I’m around to defend myself, and my art, remains to be seen.