“Playing House” with her store-bought family

Susan Heintz in Paris


“…for Women, the path to fulfillment is not through one thing, it’s through all things; Education, Career, Home, Family, Accomplishment, Enlightenment. If any one of those things is left out, it’s often perceived that there’s something wrong with your life. We are somehow never enough, just as we are. Even if we do have a finger in each of those pies, there is never enough time to do any of them to our satisfaction. We are constantly set up by our expectations to feel as though we are missing something.

I thought it was high time to call this nonsense out publicly, because this notion of insufficiency is not just about me, nor exclusively about Women in regards to Marriage. It’s about anyone whose life doesn’t look the way it “should.” Rarely does anyone’s life turn out the way it was expected, and if by some miracle it does, what they expected isn’t what they thought it was. I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds, and quit clinging to outdated assumptions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other, and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it’s made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached to your name.”

When Suzanne Heintz was told by her mother, “Suzy, there’s nobody perfect out there. You just need to PICK somebody, if you’re going to settle down.” She snapped back, “Mom! It’s not like I can go out and BUY a family! I can’t just MAKE it happen!” But then, she did!

Suzanne went out and purchased the perfect Family… of Mannequins. This inspiration led to an entire series of staged family moments with her “Store-Bought Family”.  From a Photography class project in 2000, to an annual Christmas card sent to family and friends, Suzanne’s photos began to be shared and enjoyed by more and more people.  She discovered that even the process of taking the photographs in public spaces became a way to connect with people.  It was enjoyable making people laugh but perhaps more importantly; starting a conversation about social conventions.  It was difficult to transport the mannequins and props to locations but the work felt important.  As Suzanne says, “work has to be difficult to be a genuine success”.

Last June, she went to Paris.  And she brought her Perfect Family.  The idea was to shot some photos in Paris and film the process.  When she returned from her trip, Suzanne’s editor love the footage so much and he told her that the footage was crying out to be a film!  In less than a year, Playing House was completed.

Suzanne poses with her husband, Chauncey
Suzanne poses with her husband, Chauncey

The short film premiered at the Women + Film Voices Film Festival in Denver on March 21, 2014 and was greeted with much laughter and cheers.

Suzanne's "husband" Chauncey
Suzanne’s “husband” Chauncey

A producer from another film in the festival, Karen Whitehead, is now interested in taking Playing House out on the film festival circuit.  Suzanne is looking for a gallery to host a show of her large-format photographs and her work continues to inspire people from around the world through her postings on her Facebook page and the great press she is receiving.  How pleased she must be, to see that she has struck a cord with people from all over the world.  It seems she’s not the only one who’s tired of the pressure to find the Perfect Family!

Suzanne Heintz


Rating: 4 out of 5 glasses of French Champagne
Bechdel Rating: passes with flying colors


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