Often times people ask me if there is any significant meaning or symbolism behind my photos. The short answer is "sometimes."
My goal was to create something with a story.
In the case of my Families Are Forever image, there are a few intentional things I added to give a side-story behind the photograph. If you have been to any of my art showings, you've probably heard me tell the short-story behind it. Some people notice some things and ask questions like; "Why is the child off-centered?" or "Why are only half of the windows lit?" or "Why didn't you Photoshop out the wilted flowers?" All valid questions of course. Since we can't control all elements of a photo, such as what lights are on, why didn't the landscapers pull out the dead flowers, etc. We try and change a few things in post-processing to help tell a story. Although there are very few things done to this photograph in post, I will go through a couple things I did and why.
First, we must understand some things about the sculpture. It's called "In The Family Circle" by Dennis Smith. Although the sculpture itself is about "Taking your first step is part of every person's life." (http://www.smithsculpture.com/in-the-family-circle-sm/)
When I did a little bit of research on the subject, I found some information about a story called "Melissa Walks" by Jeremy Goff here. It touched me greatly. In short, Melissa was to be the model for Dennis as he made the sculpture. As time went on, they found that Melissa had Cerebral Palsy and that "Melissa will never Walk." Obviously, there were some challenges associated with this. I invite you to read this story about it.
Melissa lived to the age of 19 and never was able to walk without the use of body braces.
There is a full-size cast of the original statue at the Alpine Art center in Alpine Utah. The plaque reads:
"In Memory of Melissa Wilson of Alpine, who, with her parents Keith and Teri Wilson, modeled for this sculpture in 1977 before it was discovered that Melissa had Cerebral Palsy.
Melissa never walked, but lived to the age of nineteen with loving support from her parents and siblings, Jodi, Jason, Justin, and Rebecca.
This sculpture is dedicated as a memorial to Melissa and all others who minds or bodies keep them as Children while upon this earth.
Free from the bondage that held her captive, free from the struggles that challenged her mortal years, the love she received from others and gave back again a hundred fold is finally open to new horizons.
Somewhere, at last, Melissa Walks."
So many stories and parallels within the statue and the temple that I felt that it went beyond the first step and into the after-life as well--the Plan of Salvation, Resurrection, etc. "The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time..."
There are a few questions I get asked from time-to-time:
Why is the child off-centered?
Composition-wise I believe it should not be centered. My focus is the temple and the details therein. Having her in front of the magnificent window architecture covers that up. Although the statue is part of the entire composition, the main subject is still the temple. Furthermore, the perspective of the temple is greatly altered by moving to the left. I wanted to still show details of the temple itself.
Why aren't all the window lights on?
I couldn't get the temple workers to turn them all on for me. :) Kidding aside, I wanted this composition to tell a story. Think of the path and progress of passing through the veil. From left to right. The lights symbolize entering into a brighter and happy life after this. The lights on the right side are on and the brighter sky/sunset on the right further accentuates that.
Why didn't you remove the wilted flowers?
As with the previous paragraph explains, and after the resurrection we are made whole, the flowers on the left show that in this life, we will die. As you move from left to the right, the flowers themselves have the same symbolism. I didn't alter the flowers in any way. I felt it it portrayed the image already without having to do any modifications.
So in short, all the pieces combined represent the passing through the veil and the resurrection.
The full image can be found here: http://www.alanfullmer.com/LDS-Temples/Temple/Provo-City-Center-Utah/i-Qd8KJ2f/A