Books: Betty Kuhner’s Family Treasures

by WL Author

The Robert F. Kennedy Family at Hickory Hill, McLean, Va., 1964

A groundbreaking photographer Betty Kuhner (1916-2014) revolutionized the American family portrait, taking it from the staid arrangement of mother, father and children dressed in their Sunday best, carefully arranged in front of the living room mantelpiece or on a sofa. Rather, she instructed her subjects to dress casually, many times similarly, and coaxed them to accompany her into the backyard, the garden or onto the beach. Once there, she would intuitively find the perfect location and, more importantly, exquisite light, all the while engaging Mother Nature and serendipity to serve as the ultimate stylist. Her long and prolific career built an archive of over five decades of extraordinary documentation of America’s most distinguished dynasties included in her inspiring body of work.

Left: The R. Sargent Shriver Family. From right to left: Maria, Bobby, Eunice, Sargent, Anthony, Timothy and Mark, Rockville, Md., 1977; Right: Britty Bardes with son Blakeley Page, Newport, R.I., 1976

Hilary Geary Ross with sons Teddy Geary (left) and Jack Geary, Southampton, N.Y., 1981

By choosing to work exclusively in black and white, Kuhner unknowingly created a powerful genre that would not only impact family photography, but also all fine contemporary wedding, portrait, fashion and advertising imagery as we know it today.

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