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The Trump years almost broke Gillian Laub’s family. This is how it


Dad carving the turkeys, 2019, from Family Matters.

Dad carving the turkeys, 2019, from “Family Matters.” (©Gillian Laub via Aperture, 2021)

When photojournalist Gillian Laub was a teenager, she would tell her father what was bothering her. He was sometimes moved to tears as he sat with her.

That small detail sheds light on why Laub’s family stayed together over the last several years, through intense interpersonal conflict over politics during the Trump presidency.

“Love is really what held us together,” Laub said in an interview on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast.

It’s a story she tells through photographs and short essays in her recent book, “Family Matters.” The project is also an art exhibit that opened in New York City last fall and will soon hit the road in select cities.

But it’s the unconditional love of Laub’s father and mother — an “exuberant devotion to friends, family and ritual” — that seems to be the glue in her story. “One lesson I learned from my parents was the importance of showing up — always showing up,” she writes.

My quarantine birthday, 2020 from Family Matters.

My quarantine birthday, 2020 from “Family Matters.” (©Gillian Laub via Aperture, 2021)

“Family Matters” is a raw self-portrait by Laub, who turns the lens on herself as much as anyone else. She has published books of intensely personal photographs about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and racism in the Deep South. She’s also made a documentary — “Southern Rites” — about the shooting of a young Black man by an older white man in rural Georgia.

But self-examination was needed as she turned her focus to her own family and their fraught disagreements over Trump.

“Those years brought out the worst in everyone, and I’m part of that,” Laub said. “I don’t want to live in anger. It’s not productive. It’s really destructive.”

The book includes screenshots of family text threads in which Laub and her relatives exchanged angry messages, prompting Laub’s sister to plead in one, “STOP STOP STOP. ENOUGH.” Laub said that many American families can relate to these toxic debates of recent years.

Ultimately, she said, she had to come to terms with her family’s differences and “figure out how to live peacefully” with them.

Mom after yoga, 2020, from Family Matters.

Mom after yoga, 2020, from “Family Matters.” (©Gillian Laub via Aperture, 2021)

“I would wake up with a stomach ache. And I wasn’t practicing what I preach, really — with all of my work — which is: Listen. Listen to other people. The book was a way to help me listen and not fight. It forced me to ask the questions and listen and not fight. [It] helped me work out what I needed to work out, because I didn’t like how I was behaving.”

“I think it really comes down to listening and being open, and realizing that everyone has their own point of view and everyone is seeing the same situation through a different lens,” she said.

“We’ve reduced and flattened each other to just these polarizing, one-dimensional human beings,” Laub said. “There’s so…


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