Family photographs, snapshots and portraits, affixed to the refrigerator or displayed in gilded frames, crammed into shoeboxes or catalogued in albums, they preserve ancestral history and perpetuate memories. Indeed, photography has become the family's primary means of self-representation. In this book Marianne Hirsch uncovers both the deception and the power behind this visual record. Hirsch explores the photographic conventions for constructing family relationships and discusses artistic strategies for challenging those constructions. When we capture our family photographically, we are often responding to an idealized image. Contemporary artists and writers, Hirsch shows, have exposed the gap between lived reality and a perceived ideal to witness contradictions that shape visual representations of parents and children, siblings, lovers, or extended families. Exploring fiction, imagetexts, and photographic essays, she elucidates their subversive devices, giving particular attention to literal and metaphorical masks. While permitting false impressions and misreadings, family photos have also proved a means for shaping personal and cultural memory. Hirsch highlights an example: the wide variety of family pictures surviving the Holocaust and the displacements of late-20th-century history. Whether personal treasures, artistic constructions, or museum installations, these images link private memory to collective history.
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