Larry Sultan: Here and Home
So far I have visited the Here and Home exhibit of Larry Sultan's photographs at LACMA, twice. It was a great first visit; the museum was quiet, there were no children present, and most everyone there either seemed to know his work or were genuinely curious - not just lookie loos. The way he depicted his parents brought on a sense of nostalgia and evoked memories and images present in my own life. I wonder if those suburban memories are unique to Americans who grew up in the 80's and 90's or if people from other countries resonate with it the overall feel of those images as well. When I look at pictures, I want to see what someone else sees and learn a little about them from the choices they made when they took the picture. Larry Sultan's pictures of his family made me think about why I haven't been taking pictures of my own parents. He wanted his parents to live forever so he took photographs of them. I want my parents to live forever as well so I started thinking about what kind of lenses I should use that would render the most "realistic" images possible. I don't want pictures with a shallow depth of field or any of that "artistic" flare to them. I want real pictures who's main purpose is to allow me to reflect and remember who my parents are and what is happening when I make the exposure.
Personal connections aside, what really hit home was the fact that Larry was able to recognize the importance of making photographs for himself and documenting his own life experience. Many people place more emphasis on the idea of making a "good photograph," rather than capturing and fully experiencing the moment. I believe that there is no such thing as a "good photograph." There are only photographs that people resonate with or photographs that don't. Photographs that people don't resonate with are the moments that die, as soon as the shutter is released. We don't engineer feelings, we experience and (when a camera is present) record them. A quote from Edward Weston comes to mind: "My work has vitality because I have helped, done my part in revealing to others the living world about them..."
*Pictures from Home (1982–92)* resonates with me because the images carry with them the emotions and intentions of both the photographer and the subject(s). They capture an energy between Larry and his parents that could not exist between any other set of people and this is accurately, clearly, and objectively recorded in his photographs. This is what matters to me. This is why cameras should exist... To document, to record and hopefully understand more about an experience and later enjoy the things you could possibly have missed.
Finally, this show made me think about printing. I have always enjoyed 4x6" prints and I could easily see these as pictures pasted on a refrigerator door or in a photo album. In fact, some of the pictures on display seemed as if they were taken straight out of Larry Sultan's scrapbook. I hardly print anymore due to the cost and more importantly storage of the prints but after this show I ordered a fresh set of ink and setup my color tools to start making inkjet prints of the pictures I take that matter to me most. Just daily snaps but still they will be prints that line my walls as I walk through my space going about my daily routine.