Thursday, November 6, 2014

family photo class

... in which we spent a lot of time talking about Larry Sultan.  But I also took this photo of a photo, because I'd promised them an example of The Bourgeois Family as produced in a C19th photo studio. This is a terrific example of bourgeoisification through backdrop, and through (lent by the photographer - or would they all have had these clothes for best? somehow I doubt it) costumes.  Just look at the noble patriarch on the right; the elegant matron on the left.  In fact, though, Allen Davis runs a barbers' shop; his wife Lizzie is most probably the daughter of a farmer or farm laborer.  They're doing all right for themselves, but I doubt that their domestic setting looks quite like this.  I think, judging by the ages, the picture must have been taken around 1890.

In relation to Sultan's images of his parents, especially his father, we expanded on the question raised by the father himself: to whom does a photograph belong?  To the person who took it, or the person whom it's of, or the person looking at it (yes! they know their Barthes beyond Camera Lucida)?  In this case, is this my photo to write about, or Alice's?  For these are my great grandparents, grandfather-and-great-uncles-in-law, and at the center (that young boy on the right, at least), of her current book.  It's also very uncanny to think that I've looked at the (relatively few) extant diaries of the boy on the chair in the middle - in an archive in Colorado Springs - and seen, from the 1940s, the little marks that he made in his diary when he clearly (there's no other explanation for them, in their contexts) had sex with his wife.  This makes me feel, in relation to the voyeurism that we were also talking about, like some kind of voyeur of his future ...

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