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Picture Perfect: Snapshots of the Family Suzanne R. Pucci THE FAMILY HAS LONG BEEN INTIMATELY RELATED to the snapshot. A ubiquitous western social and cultural convention, the "family snapshot" is indeed a cliché, one that has served since 1888 when George Eastman invented Kodak, the personal camera, which provided amateur photographers with the ability to document, to capture, and to compose the family—its moods, its history, its story. In the preface to her 1999 edited study, The Familial Gaze, Marianne Hirsch states, "Since 1888, photography left the studio and entered the home. In the ensuing century, the camera has become the family's primary instrument of self-knowledge and self-representation—the primary means by which family memory is perpetuated , by which the family's story is told.'" Though the photograph as personal technological device comes into existence only in the late nineteenth century, the practice of "entering the home" in order to represent the family, to tell its story, is actually an old and time-honored process—one that can be traced at least to the eighteenth century, and one, I will show, that became established in text as well as on canvas and subsequently in snapshot and film. Crucial to representing the eighteenth-century family from the outset was a defining of boundaries that framed the enclosures of home. In effect, diverse processes of framing domestic space through the act of entering the home resemble, though with certain important distinctions, contemporary representations of the family as it is captured and created by the snapshot. For Philippe Aries in his celebrated study L'Enfant et la vie familiale sous l'Ancien Régime, the 1600s manifested a new emphasis on the child; whereas in the 1700s a new sense of the modern family unit became the predominant focus.2 For many historians, the aristocratic and increasingly the bourgeois family in France and in Europe in general became, especially by the eighteenth century, a primary organizing focus of sentimental, economic, and social life already before the Revolution. And with this new focus came a major representational as well as cultural shift that reoriented the sense and sentiment of family from what had been a dominant diachronic model of lineage to a synchronic model of domestic intimacy. This shift evolved specifically through emphasis on the spaces of "home." Dans le monde des sentiments et des valeurs, la famille ne comptait pas autant que le lignage. On pourrait dire que le sentiment du lignage était le seul sentiment de caractère familial connu du 68 Spring 2004 Pucci Moyen Age. Or [ce lignage] apparaît très différent du sentiment de famille, tel qu'on l'a vu se dégager de l'iconographie des I6lème-17lème siècles.... [Le lignage] s'étend aux liens du sang sans égard aux valeurs nées de la cohabitation et de l'intimité. Le lignage n'est jamais réuni dans un espace commun, autour d'une même cour. Au contraire, le sentiment de famille est lié à la maison, au gouvernement de la maison, à la vie dans la maison. (Ariès, 239, my emphasis) The historical line of descendents passing from one generation to the next offers a diachronic sense of family, as it developed through time and was constituted by lineage; while a synchronic, indeed distinctly spatial, model was formulated in and as the place of house and home. The opposition between abstract genealogical relations linking family members across generations, even distant centuries, and the contrasting simultaneous interaction of related individuals in a contemporary moment within an intimate domestic space offers a highly suggestive paradigm. The new notion of family is integral to domestic space and is organized as a conceptual shift from a chronological and historical to a spatial articulation . The iconography of the family becomes associated with what progressively became more intimate spaces of cohabitation and thus contrasted with a sense of familial relations defined, represented, and even experienced as genealogy, as lineage. The family of the Middle Ages, according to this model, was constituted by each individual's being inscribed within a narrative line connecting relatives from one generation, from one century, to the next. Such...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 68-82
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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