Meet the Photographers Behind Star Wars Families Presented by eBay

"I didn’t realize how much impact Star Wars can have in bringing people together."

Earlier this month, Lucasfilm and British Journal of Photography launched Star Wars Families presented by eBay, an ambitious project meant to celebrate the generational legacy of Star Wars. Star Wars Families tells the stories of 10 families of Star Wars fans from 10 different countries, and for each, Star Wars has a different meaning. For the United Kingdom’s McGuire family, in which a young son lost his mother, he and his father felt a connection with Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, who suffered the same heartbreak. For the Singh family from Australia, it’s about seeing traces of their own faith in the ways of the Jedi. All of their stories are unique, emotional, and real. You can discover them right now at StarWarsFamilies.com.

But key to Star Wars Families, from the time the idea was hatched between Lucasfilm and British Journal of Photography, was the photography. Ten photographers were selected to meet these families and capture their fandom through portraiture. The final results are truly stunning, though the techniques employed by each photographer are different: Jason Koxvold used no Star Wars iconography in his shoot, instead relying on nature and lighting and feel to convey the saga’s themes. Piczo, in Japan, embraced his subjects’ costuming as visual evidence of living one’s fandom. And Kovi Konowiecki, who photographed the Nguyens in San Diego, was touched by the experience. “Star Wars is sort of the glue to this family,” he tells StarWars.com, “and it was special to be able to see that firsthand.” With such personal tales to tell of these families, it comes as no surprise then that this turned out to be no ordinary assignment for these gifted photographers. Following the shoots, StarWars.com asked each about the experience.

The Singh family, Australia

The Singh/Kaur family, Australia

Ying Ang, The Singh/Kaur Family – Australia

What does Star Wars mean to you?

The eternal battle of balance.

What was your experience like with the family?

I found the Singh family powerful in their spirituality, humor, and service to their community. My experience with them was a warm meeting of minds and souls.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I was surprised at how much I saw that was universal in the predominant themes that run through the relationships in the Skywalker family. Once the costumes are stripped away and the lands far, far away are brought back to Earth, the intertwined complexity of relationships run commonly throughout our world and theirs.  

What did you learn about family through this project?

I worked with my sister on this assignment — she was the videographer — and the meeting of my family and the Singh family was unique compared to any other assignment I’ve done alone, in the immediate recognition of bond and familiarity. It was a dynamic that showed how much in common we found on both sides of the lens and what a difference it makes in building trust between photographer and subject.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope to challenge stereotypes by showing the tenderness and complexity within individuals and family dynamics, despite economy, religion, and race.

The Couto family, Brazil

The Couto family, Brazil

Camila Svenson, The Couto Family – Brazil

What does Star Wars mean to you?

Star Wars takes me back to my early 20s, when I was starting college, studying cinema and film. I remember I used to do marathons in order to watch all the classics, stayed in the whole weekend watching movies, because it felt important. When I think about Star Wars I think about being young, fresh, and starting a new phase in life.

What was your experience like with the family?

It was really beautiful and powerful to photograph Ana and Clarice. Both were very open to everything I proposed in terms of photography. I always find it difficult when I have to photograph inside people’s homes because no matter what the planning, we only understand what will happen when we are there, talking, observing the space. I felt very much like spending the day with them, it was a very easy exchange. I think we can also connect a lot by the fact that we are all women and share similar opinions about the world. One way or another, this transposes in the images, as well.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

Being able to closely observe people with such a similar connection to something as specific as Star Wars, and how this common passion can make relationships stronger, as well.

What did you learn about family through this project?

I think there is a certain mystery that operates within the idea of family. I think about it a lot because my family was the first subject I photographed when I became interested in photography. And since then I keep photographing them every time I travel to the countryside. Despite different dynamics, I believe there are certain things that I always end up looking for, even when I’m photographing a family that isn’t mine. There is a universality in certain gestures, symbols, and senses that seems to make everything coherent. I am not sure what I learned about family, but I know this is a never-ending subject, a hole in the universe where you can always find an extra layer to try to understand. I think families are about that, a relentless pursuit of recognition, intimacy, belonging, and time.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope the photographs can communicate from a genuine, horizontal place — my work is all about finding this genuine perspective, in everything I photograph. I also hope that people identify with the connection that mother and daughter have as much as I did.

The Bedeman Family, Germany, from Star Wars Families

The Bedeman Family, Germany

Daniel Chatard, The Bedeman Family – Germany

What does Star Wars mean to you? 

Star Wars to me is a narration that binds together different generations as well as people from all over the world, giving people space for imagination and characters they can identify with. 

What was your experience like with the family?

Ben and Carrie were welcoming and very excited to be part of the project. Ylva was shy for the first few minutes and from then on very outgoing, happy, and curious. Even though they have a lot going on at the moment, mostly renovating a house in which they soon want to move, they were easygoing. It was nice to get to know all of them and have a good time together. I could even stay at their place for the night, which helped me establish a closer relationship.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I would have never thought that there are Star Wars salt shakers, baby seats, hair brushes, or drink cans!

What did you learn about family through this project? 

Spending time with Carrie, Ben, and Ylva, I understood how a patchwork family can work and how all members can give comfort and strength to each other. I imagine it must be a challenge to suddenly create a close connection to a child that is not yours. But I saw Ben and Ylva having a very good relationship with each other and I think both learn a lot from each other. I also learned how letting a four-year-old eat something with a lot of sugar can make her very active in the next hour.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans? 

I hope my pictures can give the viewers a feeling for each of the family members and their relations and spark interest to learn more about their story. It would make me happy if people discover some of the themes that also play a role in the Star Wars saga in the pictures.

The Tewari Family, India, from Star Wars Families

The Tewari Family, India

Jason Koxvold, The Tewari Family – India

What does Star Wars mean to you?

One of the aspects I have come to appreciate from Star Wars is the power of resistance. My grandfather, Aldo Varisco, led a faction of the Venetian Resistance in World War II, and I recently published a book of photographs entitled Calle Tredici Martiri (Alley of the Thirteen Martyrs) that reimagines their struggle in a contemporary context. Much of what they did was achieved with limited resources and in many regards they served as proxy forces to the Allies; these are the stories that are playing out across the world again today…In the present day context, Star Wars becomes quite subversive. 

What was your experience like with the family?

We had a great time — they were up for anything. I learned so much from them — we had long, rambling conversations in the breaks between shooting. Shiv is a former Indian Special Forces officer, so he had much to share in terms of the philosophy of conflict and asymmetric warfare.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I don’t come from a background of fandom, so to meet people who are true fans was really eye-opening; not just in that they collected the figurines, not even that Karen would bake the most extraordinary Star Wars-themed birthday cakes for her children, but that they apply their interpretation of the films and their meaning to the way they live their lives, and not in a frivolous way.

What did you learn about family through this project?

Shiv and Karen are raising two wonderful, strong children, and it was so impressive how dedicated they are to laying the groundwork to let them find their own path. As a parent of two younger children myself, it was an object lesson and, frankly, showed me that I have much to work towards.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I avoided specific visual reference to the Star Wars story, focusing instead on thematic links; what I hope to achieve is a sense of the edge of the empire — a place where surprising things are possible, where there’s dignity in hard work, and a respect for the sanctity of life, and most of all, the power of belief. 

The Avila Family, Italy, from Star Wars Families

The Avila Family, Italy

Carlotta Cardana, The Avila Family – Italy

What does Star Wars mean to you?

Star Wars to me means family, as it reminds me of when I was a kid and was fascinated with the films. I was introduced to the Star Wars saga by my older brother who saw the films when they first came out. Our grandmother got us the VHS tape set one Christmas and it became a tradition for the three of us to watch the films at her [home], so Star Wars to me is about these shared moments with my brothers and my grandma. 

What was your experience like with the family?

The family was very welcoming and excited to be part of the project. It was a very special day for them that they will remember for a long time and I feel honored to have been a part of that.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

People’s genuine passion for the films, the lively long debates that people can have about the films and what will happen in the final episode. Also how these films have the power to unite different generations. 

What did you learn about family through this project?

The best memories about family are about everyday moments rather than memorable events. It’s the moments that we share everyday, sitting around a table together, reading books, playing outside… these moments are often taken for granted while growing up but it’s the ones we cherish the most once we are adults. 

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope the pictures will communicate the intimate moments of this family and remind them of their own family, of some of the special moments they had. 

The Kassai Family, Japan, from Star Wars Families

The Kassai Family, Japan

Piczo, The Kassai Family – Japan

What does Star Wars mean to you?

For me, Star Wars is culture. I don’t call myself a crazy fan. I watched the films maybe one or two times, but it is still something that is there in my memory from childhood — also in the memory of many people. Something in the memory of many people — this is culture.

What was your experience like with the family?

Hanging out with them — to try to understand why Star Wars is so important to them. They are a totally intense level of fan. This is very interesting for a photographer. We are looking for strong characters and strong experiences that we can capture so they stand out from the world and from the normal. To understand them was important to me to make sure that I show them as different, but also in a way that people can understand and relate to the person behind — who they are, what is important to them.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

They were so obsessed with recreating the details of each character and costume. Even their personalities — when they put on their costumes they changed into different characters. So it was like shooting two different people, but one person. I was surprised by this challenge as a photographer because I mainly shoot fashion, which is a bit like this. But it was a nice challenge.

What did you learn about family through this project?

I always like to shoot family. Usually in Tokyo, I like to shoot my own family whenever I visit. So, for 15 years now, I try to find good pictures of family. For me, family is about shared experience. Star Wars Families, these families have two layers — themselves and also their fan family in the 501st. They are both families because they have a shared experience — in different ways, but still shared, so still families.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope that I have managed to show two layers — the person and the fan — to make fandom relatable to non-fans, because we are all people just expressing ourselves in different ways.

The Bergh Family, South Africa, from Star Wars Families

The Bergh Family, South Africa

Pascal Vossen, The Bergh Family – South Africa

What does Star Wars mean to you?

Star Wars was the first sci-fi series that caught my attention. It started with the Episode I for me and after that I went back and watched them all in one go. 

What was your experience like with the family?

Phenomenal. It is amazing to see how generous and courageous they are. How they choose their own direction in life, dealt with setbacks and rejection to come out much stronger on the other end. Especially their personal strength and humble personalities struck me. They really opened up towards me and made me feel welcome from the first moments onwards.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

How much the Star Wars saga is intertwined with people’s lives; the choices they make and the amount of strength and knowledge they harvest from the Skywalker story arc. Both parents use references from the Star Wars story arc to teach Eli values and other life lessons.

What did you learn about family through this project?

That the family relationships are unique and stronger than anything else. If you stick with each other you will likely find the support and strength to overcome any difficulties.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

The dynamics within the family and how they build strength from each other — their resilience is a product of their relationship. I hope you can see how caring both Robyn and Lillo are towards Eli and how they try to guide Eli through life by supporting him along the way.

The Janssen Family, United Arab Emirates, from Star Wars Families

The Janssen Family, United Arab Emirates

Josh Adam Jones, The Janssen Family – United Arab Emirates

What does Star Wars mean to you?

Star Wars is something that evokes really great childhood memories — watching the films with my brother Luke, collecting the figures from cereal boxes or playing the many iconic video games across various platforms. Star Wars is everywhere, and it has been such an honor to work on this project and hopefully add something meaningful to its legacy.

What was your experience like with the family?

It was a joy to work with the Janssen family and we are already looking forward to remaining in contact! They are a wonderful family and I felt immediately welcomed by them when we first met. The love and care they have for one another is beautiful to observe, and I feel privileged to have spent some time in their lives. 

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I think what surprised me the most is the power that Star Wars…has on people’s lives, and how the many themes presented in the films are prevalent in most families. Overcoming adversity, light out of darkness, and female empowerment can be found both within the films and also within the Janssen family unit, too.

What did you learn about family through this project?

Something that I didn’t necessarily learn, but was definitely confirmed during this project is that family values and beliefs tend to be pretty similar across the globe, regardless of cultural differences. People always want the best for their families, and despite certain challenges, tend to always show an unconditional bond with those close to them.  

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope the images that the family and I made together will communicate a “snapshot” of their personal lives in a way that is positive and celebratory of their relationships with one another. I also hope that the Star Wars references evoke nostalgia in both fans of the franchise and people that might have only seen the one film, for example. Family relationships are somewhat universal in one way or another, so everyone will bring a slightly different viewing position to the pictures. This is one of the things that makes photography such an interesting and complex medium, especially when working on a project such as this one.

The McGuire Family, United Kingdom, from Star Wars Families

The McGuire Family, United Kingdom

Alice Zoo, The McGuire Family – United Kingdom

What does Star Wars mean to you?

I’ve always been aware of Star Wars at a basic level, as it’s so present in the cultural consciousness — Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Yoda — but I didn’t know much about it beyond that before this commission. Since watching more of the films and getting to know it better I see it as a really charming example of the kinds of heroes we were looking for decades ago.

What was your experience like with the family?

I had such a lovely day with Terence and Malachi. They were so welcoming, warm, and amenable to my suggestions, as well as being very relaxed about the various constraints we were working with (the short amount of daylight hours, the number of different shots, both photography and videography that we needed to get, etc.). Spending time with them was a privilege. I was so struck by Terence’s incredibly thoughtful parenting, especially as regards the loss of Malachi’s mum. Malachi was sweet and open and full of energy, a pleasure to photograph.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I learned the extent of [Star Wars‘] reach and relevance and how passionate people feel about it; it was also my first time learning anything substantial about the characters and storyline at all.

What did you learn about family through this project?

Since the day I’ve been reflecting on how valuable it is to encourage emotional openness in children, and teach them the importance of vulnerability, as Terence encourages with Malachi.

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope the photos will communicate the closeness of Terence and Malachi’s relationship, their ease with one another, a feeling of their personal histories, and the sense of adventure inherent to childhood.

The Nguyen Family, United States, from Star Wars Families

The Nguyen Family, United States

Kovi Konowiecki, The Nguyen Family – United States

What does Star Wars mean to you?

For me, Star Wars is about ethics and family, and how the decisions you make and the path you choose have an affect those around you. Star Wars represents the ideas of hope and perseverance, and that although it may not always seem like it, sticking to your principles in tough times can lead to good things in the long run. 

What was your experience like with the family?

My experience was pretty incredible. The entire family was really kind and easy to work with, and their enthusiasm for Star Wars was cool to see. It was a long day of shooting, and everyone in the family was ready to do whatever I asked of them.

What surprised you most in working on Star Wars Families?

I was most surprised to learn a little bit more about the Nguyen family. I knew a little bit about their story before the shoot, but I was surprised to hear more about each of their individual stories. I was also taken aback by the love and support Milan showed each of her boys. I was surprised to see how ingrained Star Wars can be in family structure, as well. I of course knew how big it was in terms of popularity, but I didn’t realize how much impact Star Wars can have in bringing people together. 

What did you learn about family through this project?

Family is everything. Paul and Brandon have not had the easiest path growing up, and Milan has really given them a new life. You can really see their joy being with one another, and I have a lot of admiration for Milan after seeing the type of loving and passionate environment she has created for her children as a single mother. 

What do you hope your photos will communicate to people — both Star Wars fans and those who don’t consider themselves fans?

I hope that people can connect with my photos on a humanistic and emotional level more than anything else. Although Star Wars was a big part of this project, my goal was to capture the essence of who these people are as both individuals and as a family, and to subtly show how Star Wars can be the glue that keeps them together. Nonetheless, you don’t need to be a fan of Star Wars to be able to connect to people and emotions, and I hope my photographs can bring out the importance of love and family.

Discover Star Wars Families presented by eBay now at StarWarsFamilies.com, and learn more about the ambitious project in StarWars.com’s feature story.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

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