Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction

Wells, L. et al. (2004) Photography: A Critical Introduction 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

The dominant format for personal portraits were the daguerrotype, a positive image on silvered metal, invented by Loui-Jacques-Mandé. 1839

Within a few years of the invention a large amount of people wanted their portrait taken (mostly middle class)

“The family based-based albums of the nineteenth century are those of prosperous dynasties whose members had both the leisure and the money to take up photography as well as to buy commercially produced pictures.”

“The repetoire of personal imagery was changing. There had been an elegiac tone to much Victorian personal photography, evoked by solemnity of middle class portraiture and by the awareness that so many died young.”

1888, George Eastman produced the hand-held camera, a camera simply enough for anyone to use, so home photography became an option for all. He separated the difficult processing from the actual taking of the photograph. ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’ was the beginning of personal photography for the next century. (West 2000)pg 139

Developments followed, people were able to take the film out and sent that off to be developed rather than the whole camera,

“Looking inwards towards the domestic and creating an exclusive record of your family was an increasingly important message, directed largely at the women of the middle class.

The Box Brownie was launched in 1900

this was advertised towards children as well

With the First World War, camera sales increased a large amount, reaching it’s peak in 1917, due to families buying cameras to record soldiers leaving for war.

during the 2nd world war popular photography included high-quality photojournalism

“The image of the child became the central icon of family life.” (by the 1930’s) focusing on the child’s birthdays, christmas trees etc

Family’s had more opportunity to travel, so the camera went with them “the domestication of the unfamiliar, by capturing it on film, has remained one of the most important uses of snapshot cameras since Kodaks first appeal to tourists and travellers.”

In 1963 Kodak produced ‘a complete new system of snapshot photography’. Colour printing had become cheaper.

21st century contemplations

Almost everyone has their own personal collection of images, sometimes in photo album or stored digitally on a computer.

“Personal photography, as we have seen, has a history of its own which meets up with and overlaps with social history but needs to explored on its own terms. .” (patricia holland, 2004, pg 149)

“Personal photographs expect to be understood within an interpretive community, a group of users who share the same understandings of pictures which record and confirm valued rites of passage and culturally significant moments.” (Bhanbha 1990 pg 150)

“While family pictures may, on the surface, act as social documents, a closer examination reveals the complex of interrelations and scandals that weave through the soap opera of personal life.” (Isherwood, 1998; Martin, 1991; Spence, 1991)

“Personal Pictures may act as an emotional centre for self-exploration.”

Jo Spence? 1980’s (more contemporary, use of family/personal photography)
worked with domestic photography and family albums to create intensely personal work.
She started using snapshots from her child hood to draw attention to the codes of domestic photography

“She offered her awareness of the sickness, shame and struggles of everyday life as a commentary on the conventional smiles of snapshots themselves.” pg 154

“The work developed into a practice she described as a form of therapy, working through traumatic moments and reliving the intensities of childhood usually only accessible only through psychoanalysis. ” pg 154

She exhibited ‘Beyond the Family’ at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1979. “She offered her awareness of the sickness, shame and struggle of everyday life as a commentary on the conventional smiles of the snapshots themselves.

This contributed to the revaluation of photographic genres, so that snapshots can no longer be ignored as trivial and irrelevant.

***more detail on jo spence

“…These remain the public works of photographic artists, produced and distributed within a context which is very different from that of the mundane family snapshot.” pg 158 patricia holland

Voyeurism: Michelle Henning

“This pleasure is voyeuristic when it is dependent on the object of the gaze being unaware, not looking back.” pg 170

“Voyeurism is a form of objectification” pg 170

“Voyeurism describes a mode of looking related to the exercise of power in which a body becomes a spectacle for someone else’s pleasure, a world divided into the active ‘lookers’ and the passive ‘looked at'” pg 171

“Some photographs, such as those which depict a normally private or taboo activity and a subject apparently unaware that they are being photographed, are more explicitly voyeuristic” pg 171 (Susan Sontag?)

“The concept of voyeurism is applicable not only to sexualised or erotic images, but also in relation to the depiction of colonised peoples and of disability as spectacle.” pg 171


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