Never take another lame family portrait

Never take another lame family portrait

Shanghai-based photographer Alexandra Diez de Rivera brings more dimension to traditional shooting with her multi-layered photos
Alexandra Diez de Rivera
Alexandra Diez de Rivera
Alexandra Diez de Rivera
No, you're not seeing things. Shanghai photographer Alexandra Diez de Rivera combines multiple photos in one image to ensure a quirky final product that’s all you.

There's nothing wrong with a family or personal portrait. There’s something terribly wrong, however, with the homogeneous examples that smile at you, artificially, from the walls of a photographer’s studio. No family (or single human, for that matter) is that perfect. Enter the alternative: Shanghai-based photographer Alexandra Diez de Rivera.

Harnessing the powers of digital technology, Diez de Rivera takes what she calls "alternative" portraits, turning the concept of traditional stills on its head. What shakes out is a quirky take on the traditional portrait that tells a story about its subjects in a setting that reflects their lifestyle -- and merges multiple perspectives into a single frame.

Group effort

What if the children flew in from the window while we sip tea sitting upside down on the ceiling? — Alexandra Diez de Rivera

"The best ideas come when the people commissioning the portraits get involved in the thinking process," she says. "I get to know my subjects in order to find the right story for their photo."

If there's a time to let your creative juices flow, this would be it. But just remember: there’s no special effects crew to help you with the shoot, so keep it real.

"I've gotten suggestions like, 'What if the children flew in from the window while we sip tea sitting upside down on the ceiling?'" recounts Diez de Rivera.

Never using the same idea twice (and, thankfully, never using flying children even once), Diez de Rivera has shot over 40 portraits around the world, including one of famously kooky Spanish fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.

Testimonials from the peanut gallery

"I hate traditional family portraits," reveals Olivia Von Halle, who recently commissioned Diez de Rivera to do a portrait of her and her husband that involved kung fu moves and a Louis Vuitton shop window. "But as soon as I saw [Diez de Rivera’s] work, I fell in love with the way she gets right to the core of her subjects -- us."

"Traditional family portraits always try to be an idyllic archetype of order and calm that's plain false," says Turi Munthe, who had his family portrait taken by Diez de Rivera last year. "Families, in my experience, are messy -- less a unit, more an amorphous changeling, constantly tugged into new shapes. I think [Diez de Rivera's] portrait says all that. But more importantly, I think [Diez de Rivera], and her portraits, are just very funny."

Say, "Cheese!" Um, we mean "qiezi!"

Three sizes of portrait are available: small (54cm x 36cm), RMB 14,000; medium (80cm x 54cm), RMB 17,000; and large (120cm x 80cm) RMB 20,000. adiezderivera@gmail.com, Alexandra Diez de Rivera