Louisa Marie Summer: Jennifer’s Family

Some photographers do the hard work.  They approach strangers and integrate themselves into new worlds, and through that integration, give us insights into situations and experiences we might never encounter. This hard work also connects us to our humanity and to the human condition. Louisa Marie Summer is one of those photographers, and Schilt Publishing has recently released a powerful book of her series, Jennifer’s Family.

Louisa was born in Munich, Germany, received her undergraduate degree in Photo Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, and her MFA in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. She now lives and works in New York and is working as a freelance photographer and teaching for non-profit art organizations with students with special needs. Together with the NYC non-profit organization “Rehabilitation Through Photography”, she helps people to improve their lives through photography.

Louisa’s work has been exhibited worldwide, and has received numerous awards and nominations.  She was a selected student of the Edie Adams Workshops, and has been featured in a range of publications.

The photographs of Jennifer’s Family share my experience with Jennifer, a 26 year-old
first-generation Puerto Rican woman, whom one day I approached in South
Providence, RI. This area is an urban neighborhood with a large
African-American and Hispanic population, high unemployment and crime rates,
and where many families live well below the poverty line. 

For more than two years I have been portraying the daily life of
Jennifer, who lives with her Native American life partner Tompy and their four
children in a rundown three-bedroom apartment at or near the lower end of the
socioeconomic ladder. In spite of difficult living conditions, poverty, and
illness, Jennifer remains optimistic while thoroughly caring for her children.

Over time I literally became part of the daily life of an America family
I care for and who cares for me. The quote of Jennifer’s life partner and also
the title of my short video documentary, Respect
Goes a Long Way
perfectly expresses our relationship based on mutual trust,
respect, and understanding.

To support the
family’s voice, I included short essays from interviews in the book
that
reveal details about their relationships and emotions, as well as their finances
and child-rearing philosophies. The words reflect them as trustworthy human beings,
while also revealing the contradictions and tensions between what they say and
how they act. 

 With this work I want to give
people a voice, particularly those who cope with poverty and despair. I am
convinced that honest and compassionate images play an important role as a
“social conscience” that can change people’s views or at least raise awareness.