The Son

Tina Barney (American, born in 1945)


48 x 60 inches

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, Chromogenic print

Not On View


Americas, Contemporary Art, Photography



Before Tina Barney began to study photography, she had already been collecting photographs. This became the motivation for her own photographic work in which she focuses on portraiture, creating a sort of cultural and psychological study of her own upper class American family. For more than twenty years she has consistently photographed her family and friends, portraying their daily lives and social rituals - weddings, cocktail parties, and Christmas dinners - and exploring the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. Barney has opened up her personal family album to the public in order to question general issues concerning social behavior, manners, and the search for the essential meaning of our existence. Although at first sight her photographs appear to be snapshots, they are actually staged and arranged, recalling portrait paintings throughout art history. Within this stage framework the characters act individually and spontaneously, giving the images a certain theatrical tension and creating psychological impact. Barney’s subject matter raises in equal measure issues of privilege and family interactions, questioning whether wealth and its trappings guarantee happiness.


The artist; with Janet Borden, Inc., New York, 1987; purchased by Charles Gross, 1987; gift to the MFA, Boston, June 21, 2006

Credit Line

Gift of Charles and Joan Gross and Emily G. O'Neil in memory of Evelyn F. Gross


© Tina Barney