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Awkward Family Portraits of Yesteryear

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The family portrait is a time-honored tradition of gathering together to capture for perpetuity our unseemly hairstyles, shameful clothing, and deep and abiding awkwardness in front of a camera.  Through the magic of photography – and Awkward Family Photos – we can be humiliated years later as our poor fashion choices are immortalized and shared through the ages.

So, it is not with jaded mockery that I share these awkward family portraits, as I have plenty of my own humiliating Olan Mills portraits that would rival anything in this post.  Instead, let’s take a lighthearted laugh at family portraits, thankful that our own photos are stuffed safely in a drawer, far from public view.  Enjoy.

 

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I’m sure the tie bit seemed brilliant in 1987… not so much thirty years later.

 

awkward family portrait

 

It’s interesting to pick up on the family dynamics within the photographs; there always seems to be someone that’s just not feelin’ the love for the family togetherness.

(Note: A lot of these photographs come from Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack (2010), but are also scattered around the web.)

 

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The matching denim wasn’t bad enough – they had to pose in the most awkward manner imaginable.

 

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The “giant dad head” motif was common for Olan Mills portrays.  In retrospect, it seems a tad frightening – the smiling family unit shadowed by a stern father’s looming presence.

 

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Just a typical family portrait from 1970s Appalachia: cutoff jeans, kegs, shotguns, and rockin’ chairs.

 

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Nothing brings me more joy than a 1980s Olan Mills studio portrait: the fake plants, the textured background, the painfully awkward smiles… glorious.

 

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Words fail me.

 

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Everyone is distracted by something to our right.. but not dad.  His focus is unwavering.

 

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I’m going to assume this shot ended up in the “discard pile”; although, it would’ve been awesome to see framed above the fireplace.

 

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There’s plenty of room to sit… yet, they felt the need to kneel awkwardly behind the couch.  Curious.

 

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Free tip of the day:  Don’t “lean in” for your family portrait.  This will create an unbearably cheesy effect that will be the source of much cringe in the years to come. You’ll thank me later.

 

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There’s nothing worse than when your “rebellious phase” is captured for perpetuity in a family portrait.

 

vintage family photo

 

Which rebellious phase translates to more downstream awkwardness? The punk or the hippie?  Talk among yourselves.

 

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If I accomplish nothing else from this post, I hope to create a deep understanding that matching outfits are a terrible idea for a family photo.

 

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Is it just me, or do you also feel that dad’s position with the family dog is a bit… unseemly?

 

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All labeled for your convenience.

 

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This young man is clearly being groomed for an office job like dear old dad – do you think he lived up to the expectations?

 

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Buy the delightful Awkward Family Photos book here.

  • NGO

    The one with all the ties, Dad’s subtle way of saying, “I wanted a son, just one son. Was that too much to ask for??”

  • Freakanatcha

    Do you think it was the photographer’s suggestion:”OK, let’s try one with David strangling mom”?

  • pjsx

    what kind of asshole needs to have 20 kids?