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Dissecting a family

About a year ago, Felicia Stamp started taking photographs of her family. Stamp, a USF graduate who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, said she wanted to get to know her immediate family better. Family Portrait, Stamp’s new exhibit running at the Centre Gallery, could be interpreted as a portrayal of rural American family life, but Stamp cites more selfish reasons for the project. She says she did it for a chance to discover her family and herself.

“I don’t think you can make art for other people,” she said. “It comes from within.”

Stamp’s younger brother is the most prominent subject in her exhibit. She asked him to act natural for the photos, and being an adolescent boy, he naturally put on his best tough-guy face and struck a nonchalant pose. Most of the pictures display him in a rural setting complete with bonfires, dirt bikes and shotguns. She admits that many aspects of his personality don’t show in the pictures, but her affection for her subject certainly does. In the middle of her yearlong project, her brother became ill and had to spend a month in the hospital. This is where she managed to capture a more vulnerable side of him, looking morose in a hospital bed.

The show includes a few pictures of her parents, sipping from coffee mugs and generally looking like normal Americans. The casual attitude of her subjects gives you the feeling that you’re looking at a small slice of their day-to-day lives, not a posed, contrived “family album” type of picture. Stamp believes that most people have some engraved resentment for their families, but through this project, she has learned to accept them for who they are and come closer to accepting herself in the process.

The other major subjects in her exhibit are her older sister and brother-in-law. They were high school sweethearts, and Stamp says they are very much in love. Most of these pictures are shot in an orange indoor light, giving them a cozy look and feel. Their expressions are relaxed and content, and their intimacy is displayed with subtlety – one’s leg thrown over the other’s while lounging on a couch, or holding hands while lying in bed. That was Stamp’s idea, to emphasize and immortalize the mundane. “Something about it seems more powerful to me,” she said.

Felicia has been drawn to photography since high school.

“It’s actually kind of cheesy,” she said. “My boyfriend at the time was in a band, and I would go to his shows and take a bunch of pictures.”

However, it wasn’t until she was 22 – when she took a photography class at St. Petersburg College – that she decided it was her calling.

“Until then, I didn’t even own a camera,” she said.

Her portraits will be on display through July 13 in the Centre Gallery.