Kris Kelley Studios
artist : freelance photographer

Reconstructed Childhood

reconstructed childhood


Date: 2016

Medium: Conservation Glass, Decals, EL Panel (not pictured) 

Size: leaving dad, 9 x 11 x 14 inches, lost 11 x 28 x 11 inches, spilled milk, 9 x 11 x 14 inches

Awards: 2016 Dean's Grant, Tyler School of Art, Temple University 

Throughout the history of photography, many photographers such as Emmet Gowin and Sally Mann, have taken intimate photographs of their own families that explore how photography can mediate family memory and familial ideologies. The Familial Gaze, much like any other type of Gaze, perpetuates the mythology that family is united, stable, idyllic, and that family photography simply records a pre-existing reality, freezing moments in time. Reconstructed Childhood is a series of three re-constructed memories from my childhood of which I do not have a photograph. The images are sourced from my family archive. By re-constructing these memories and thereby creating a image of them, Reconstructed Childhood exposes the myth of the Familial Gaze by revealing a family that is not structured, idyllic or stable, and images that are fragmented.  This series projects my own personal stories into a universal space by connecting with viewers both through their own relationship to photographs and similar life experiences. Through reconstructing our memories, we can begin to examine and understand complex relationships (as those between a parent and child) and confront negative memories with the goal of overcoming them. 

leaving dad

It was early afternoon in June, and the light from the open front door reflected off the television in our now barren livingroom. My father sat on the floor in front of the TV with a half-empty pizza box. I stood in the doorway and said goodbye. I remember him wearing his old gray sweat suit, peering over his shoulder, quietly crying. This was the last time I saw my dad before my mother, sister and I moved five states away. 


This was our first family vacation to Disneyworld. I was 6. My sister wanted to ride on a ride I had no interest in, so my mother took my sister and left me with my father. We walked together through the massive crowd. At one point I looked up and my father was no longer beside me. I stayed frozen for several moments, hoping he would return. After a while, I began to look for him. I wandered for over an hour, alone and scared, through a sea of strange faces. Finally I found my mother and sister. When we found my father later, he didn’t realize how long I had been lost.  

spilled milk

When I was seven my grandmother was sick, so my mother flew to Florida for a week to take care of her. My sister and I were left in the care of my father. On the third night my mother was away, he made us grilled cheese served with milk. He poured the milk into a grown-up glass, instead of my plastic tumbler. I tried my best to be careful, but I knocked over my glass. It fell to the floor and shattered. Milk covered the table. I looked down to avoid my father’s gaze, I knew his wrath would soon follow. He hit me, and made me stand in the corner of the dining room for an hour before sending me to bed without finishing dinner.