‘Inheritance’

By Juliet Lapidos

Published March 30, 2007, issue of March 30, 2007.
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‘The rich are different than you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald reportedly told Ernest Hemingway.

“Yes, they have more money,” Hemingway quipped.

It’s a telling, if apocryphal, exchange that delineates two basic understandings of wealth — one aristocratic, the other democratic. In her first book of photographs, “Inheritance” (The Monacelli Press), Andrea Stern advances Hemingway’s democratic side of the debate. Stern belongs to a wealthy Jewish family from New York. For 15 years she kept a photographic journal, chronicling family gatherings (bar mitzvahs, holiday dinners, weddings) and daily life (breakfast, cigarette breaks, afternoons by the pool) before sorting through thousands of images to create “Inheritance.” As the title suggests, affluence is Stern’s backdrop. In the forefront, however, the photographic subjects are startlingly ordinary: They get bored and irritated; they play videogames and then doze off with their sneakers on.

“Inheritance” does not, as one might expect, encourage voyeurism: It is not an exposé of the Stern household, but an examination of family as a concept. There is a universal quality to the images that prompts viewers, whatever their background, to feel a spark of recognition — to find something familiar in an ostensibly foreign situation.

Stern’s work has been published in The New Yorker, GQ, Fortune, The New York Times Magazine and elsewhere. Her photographs are part of collections in Philadelphia at its Jewish Museum and its Museum of Art. They are also at the Jewish Museum of New York and in numerous private collections.


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