The Family Gaze


The Direct Gaze of Four Generations 1939 to 2016

Photography is inseparable from time. These portraits record the appearance of the subjects at seven discrete moments in time; an eighth fixed moment has been added by bringing them together in a single image and the viewer will establish a ninth. Nine timelines meeting at a single but ever changing point. Each portrait holds its own ambiguity and offers an individual shock of discontinuity (i), the collage itself is ambiguous and contains complex internal time lines and its own shock of discontinuity. It offers a family narrative that is disjoined and ultimately unexplained.

Loosely referencing the work of Lorrie Novak this collaged portrait explores the gaze of four generations of a single family. Each individual portrait has been selected on the basis that the subject has adopted a direct gaze, looking through the camera lens and out of the frame as if they are addressing the viewer. The earliest of these portraits was taken in 1939, then 1955, 2003, 2015 and the most recent in 2016. Together they form a narrative.

Notes on Text

(i) John Berger believes that every photograph contains two messages; firstly it communicates something about an event and secondly transmits a message concerning what he calls “a shock of discontinuity” (1:p.88). In this collage there are seven individual instances of this message: the time elapsed between the photograph being taken and the moment of looking.  Berger makes the point that we are so used to looking at photographs that we rarely register what he refers to as “this abyss”; he also refers, across all of his writings, to the ambiguous nature of a photograph, his theories of how we view and understand photographs are built on the foundation of this ambiguity.



(!) Berger, John & Mohr, Jean (1982) Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography. London: Bloomsbury

This entry was posted in 2 - Windows: Memory and the Gaze, Exercises and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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