Strangers No More

Blurring the line between stranger and relation, the artist Laurel Nakadate used DNA testing to connect to hundreds of cousins who she
Laurel Nakadate. Photo:  © Suki Dhanda, 2011, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

Laurel Nakadate. Photo: © Suki Dhanda, 2011, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

photographed for a series of arresting portraits.

The photos, all taken outdoors, at night with the subjects alone and lit by only a flashlight, convey both intimacy and distance at the same time. We first wrote about the photo series two years ago.

Called “Strangers and Relations” the portraits also beg the question of what those two terms really mean.Would you feel any different standing alone at night in the middle of nowhere with a stranger pointing a camera at you, if that stranger was a relative?

Nakadate, who spoke with us about her project, said the idea for the work came after thinking about the distant cousins she found through 23andMe and another company. This collection of people, who were strangers to her,   shared a common ancestor, and that mix of the familiar and foreign is what spurred her to embark on a what ended up being a 50,000 mile journey around the United States photographing her distant cousins.

Her portraits from Strangers and Relations have been displayed across the country, most recently in her former hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.

Below are just two that are featured in the series.