In a recent article in a popular monthly magazine the author was discussing fiction writing. Specifically, he mused about the choice he had made to abandon writing a long thought about novel in favor of the kind of brief articles and stories that appeared in newspapers. He admitted that the rewards of being able to construct a novel and bring it to successful fruition by way of character development, pacing, plot and message were probably most gratifying. But all regrets aside of never finishing the novel, he gained a great deal of pleasure in knowing that he could take a phone call at a newspapers city desk from a reporter 20 minutes before deadline and produce five paragraphs about a three alarm fire from the reporters jumbled message.
Making snapshots of one's family and editing them down to a few images that record the facts, emotions and trials of family life could be compared to the above example of newspaper writing. The photographs by Joni Sternbach could be compared to a novelist creating a work of fiction. Sternbach stages photographs using herself, husband, son and sometimes friends and other family members. She creates tableaux's that mimic the kinds of remembrances associated with family snapshots but includes enough sardonic humor, emotional gymnastics and intimate moments to dispel any link with simple family reportage. Sternbach concentrates mainly on the relationship of husband and wife and how that is affected when a son is born. Her work resounds with a gracious flair for describing the tedious and tiring sacrifices, the concern about vanity and appeal, and the sharing and distance felt when a family of two becomes a family of three.
Unlike family snapshots that require a certain intimacy with the subjects for them to be fully appreciated, Sternbach's work seduces the viewer with the familiar and confronts them with a highly personal and humorous look at a young contemporary family.
Jeffrey Hoone (c)1988