Saturday, 22 January 2011

Family photographs


On Friday 4th February 2011 we will be showing Elephant in the Room as a work in progress at Bradford Theatre in the Mill : http://www.brad.ac.uk/theatre/watch-us/performances/open-space/elephant/ 

The performance starts at 7.30 and the audience will be invited to participated in feedback after the showing to help develop the work further. We're trying out lots of new things and we'll need the audiences suggestions/thoughts/opinions to finalise how the new material will merge into what we had before when the show was ten minutes long.

Preparation work begins in advance of our Bradford Theatre in the Mill time. We start with exploring family photos as stimulus...

Family photographs are the best possible starting point for three good reasons :
One of the first things which came to mind when I thought about 'the family' as a theme were family albums.
The inspiration for EITR as it stands (in its 10 minute long incarnation) is a play by Jean Claude Van Itallie called Photographs : Mary and Howard which features photographs that speak.
One of the 'games' we used to generate the text for the first incarnation of EITR involved assembling a family portrait.

So, it seems sensible to explore the genre of the family photograph so that we are well familiar with it and can draw upon our findings. 
We work through our family photograph albums, looking for common ground.

We notice numerous conventions and the politics of the variations within these conventions.within these conventions of the variations within these conventions. of oof

Holiday pictures, couples camping in the 1970s, shots of scenery that are meaningless to anyone who wasn't on the trip at the time.

Shots of people standing by open expanses of water or green grassy runs - capturing the moment where the photograph’s incumbent must have felt particularly ‘free’ or exhilarated to be in that open space.

All the photographs from a long time ago are of ‘events’ or ‘moments’ and it is seen that in the past this was the general feeling of the purpose of taking photographs. Sometimes the photographs themselves we’re/are the events.

Everyone seems happy in the photographs (with the emphasis on seems)

We realise that some photographs have different resonance for us as we know events that followed. Photographs offer nostalgia, images of how things used to be, before things changed. Those changes could have been for the better or otherwise. Couples who were once in love, now estranged, families who were once united, now disrupted (for a variety of reasons) and dispersed.  We feel that the people in the photographs seem vulnerable for this reason. They don’t know what lies ahead.

The yellowing shades of the fading photographs making things into memories.

Windy seaside shots (dressing accordingly). Grinning, slightly sunburnt, over-sized cocktail shots. Photos of newly bought cars in the 1980s. Babies in the snow and then shots of snowmen in the years that follow. Feeding the ducks and babies being bathed. Children of all ages interacting with animals and looking smug on over and underside kiddie vehicles and rides.Old folk looking smug on over and undersized vehicles and rides! Christmas morning shots in pyjamas and dressing gowns. Teddy bears tea parties and picnics in the garden. Children sitting on Santa’s knee in varying degrees of discomfort. Grown ups humouring children by behaving like children themselves or allowing the children to be the grown up. 

Weddings, birthdays.family holidays, sleep overs, fancy dress parties and parades.

We notice how gradually the children disappear out of the pictures and how certain people are there repeatedly and then cease to be there. We notice how certain phases and periods are undocumented. We ask who the photographer is. We notice that sometimes the photographer has a presence.

Politics of variation are particularly prominent in formal pictures like wedding photographs…one wedding differs from the next – what were the circumstances behind them that made them so? Divorce, pre-marital pregnancy – perhaps back then only certain churches would take weddings such as these or perhaps a registry office would be more appropriate…actually big fussy weddings aren’t so common…

There are certain aesthetic resonances – the brightly and busily patterned carpets and furnishings of our parent’s homes, activities in Church halls and village halls and the fabric of these. The fabrics and fashion choices came up quite a lot for some reason. And brands and objects that we all remember.

More often than not the photographs taken outside were on a bright sunny day.

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