Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Viva Vernacular!

I love a good mystery... especially when that mystery is in the form of a photograph. Specifically, when that photograph seems to materialize in the most mundane places --- stuck between the pages of a book or stuffed unceremoniously into an envelope. The seemingly absent-minded or careless act belies the importance of the document.

Photographs capture not only a subject. They capture a bit of the photographer as well. They show what the person with the camera deemed important enough to chronicle, whether it was a person, place or event. Sometimes these images are not what we would consider "good" photographs in terms of composition or exposure. The power of vernacular photographs lies in the eye of the photographer. And I guess, a little bit in the collector as well.

Because of my passion for photography, I have become the de facto curator of the family photo archives. My paternal aunt has given me a plethora of snapshots as well as a single daguerreotype. My mother has given me some of the images from her side of the family as well. Some of the images have names scribbled illegibly on the back... some others are readable. Most of the images contain some clue about the subject and the relation to my family --- the Dunlop nose from Scotland, my mother's jaw line...
They all document and make real to me long dead ancestors. This helps me figure out my place in my family.

Whenever I begin teaching a new class session, I usually have everyone in the class take a moment to introduce themselves and tell why they are in the class. the most popular reason given is that they want to take better pictures of their families. My goal is to get them to show what is important in their lives.

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