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Robert Root
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Reading the Past to Reach the Present


Like a medieval Polyptych arranging discreet images into an impressionistic whole, Lineage assembles brief essays and vignettes to investigate images, texts, and memories across family history. Through the writing and photographs of past family members Robert Root tries to locate them in their own time and, wherever possible, locate himself in their presence. He attempts to discern what family testimony and family portraits tell us about family history and the continuing resonance of lineage on succeeding generations, including his own. His searches make memorable ancestors he never knew about, bring back to life a grandmother he has no memory of, lead him to a better understanding of an uncle who had abiding influence on his upbringing. Interludes visit locations vital to family history and eventually he is led to contemplate the immediate moments of his own life. 


The impulse behind Lineage is an effort to gather artifacts of image and texts in hopes of interpreting them, of better understanding the past, of coming to terms with the present. The literary remains he explores are not only his own; they are his ancestors’, his family’s, the legacy he will pass on to his descendants.

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