All families are different, yet in a way they're all the same. No matter what size, shape or form a family is, there is something universal about the way people feel and act towards each other in a household.
To outline this solidarity and encourage people to see each other as friends instead of enemies, New York-based photographer Michele Crowe started an ongoing photo series titled "Universal Family." Crowe takes portraits of her subjects in their intimate environments in the hopes that this will "unite the human race through the concept of family."
Joseph, Jodie, Georgia, Cassius, Penelope and Othello from Brooklyn, New York.
Crowe says she grew up in a traditional American-Italian family and was always very close with her parents and siblings. Her bond with them taught her a lot about the importance of having someone who loves and supports you no matter what.
"They taught me to care about people and treat them as I'd like to be treated. The Golden Rule never goes out of style," Crowe told A+.
The photographer says she was always interested in capturing and immersing herself into other people's lives, particularly when they were different than hers. Consequently, Crowe noticed the huge impact these stories were having on her and thought the effect should be similar on others.
"There is so much amazing variety in this world, and I never wanted to limit myself to experiencing only one way of life. I really wanted to marry my love of family and photographing families in general with my love of variety."
The Jens, Lola and Vivie from South Orange, New Jersey.
Crowe started by photographing her own family and friends' families. Eventually, more and more people became interested and wanted to participate in the "Universal Family" project. So far, Crowe has photographed approximately 40 families but says she wants to do "A LOT more."
Over time, Crowe started noticing her project taking a new shape and began exploring certain social topics through it, documenting same-sex marriage and interracial families. Photographer told A+ that she believes her representation of family will help people look past their prejudice and "recognize the closeness we all share with our loved ones."
"There will be a new 'normal' someday and I want to get us all on board with that! This project belongs to every body as it will feature every type of family all over the world."
Geo and Alice from Astoria, Queens, New York.
Crowe says she doesn't have a specific shooting method, but tries to spend as much time with the family in their environment and capture the most genuine and intimate moments of their day.
"I like the shoots to feel more like we're hanging out and making new friends as opposed to having a serious photo shoot. Each family reacts differently to the camera though, and I feel it out," she told A+.
According to Crowe, every house is very unique and these visits inspired her to realize that people must embrace their differences and surround themselves with people who accept them for who they are.
Rina, John, Redding and Ruby from Brooklyn, New York.
Despite the fact that her project features families of various ways of life and touches on some sensitive topics, Crowe says she never experienced a backlash from the community. Although she wouldn't be surprised if it eventually did.
"It's something I anticipate. I hope that doesn't happen but it wouldn't surprise me either. These topics are current and can be sensitive with some people. Which is why I like to stress that the project is for everyone. The 'Universal Family,' when completed, will be the family portrait of the new millennium."
Michael, Juan and Lupe from Long Island City, Queens, New York.
The Nossa Family from New Jersey.
Bryan and Mia from Levittown, Long Island, New York.
Currently, Crowe is running a Kickstarter campaign which aims to fund the development of her project and the ultimate goal -- publish the "Universal Family" photo book. To support her project, please visit her Kickstarter page.
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