Pictures of Innocence
Egyptian princess, the product of a racial hybridity so alien to the white tradition of the family photo album that it has to be called “misceginated”? Acrid debates over Afrocentric history charge the questions with controversy. O’GRady lets the viewer make up her or his own mind, but does insist that the questions be considered.
Children and adults may not enjoy the world they share. What children know about adults is not always pleasant. Dick Blau confronts us with the bleaker possibilities. In his grim Family Scene (1978), the adults seem to have given up, hands over their eyes, slumped and weary. Two children plod on, both moving blindly in the same directions, their rhymed movements pushing against the adults’ static bulk. The seam of the dock, right in the middle of the foreground, acts as a psychological barrier between the opposed forces of adult and child. This is the kind of scene no one would want in their family album, including Blau. His partner Jane Gallop puts her snapshots in the family albums instead. Blau has told me he and his family find it hard to look at some of his work, this photograph in particular. Yet it expresses, in part by the ordinariness of its moment, in part by the extraordinariness of its insight, a side of family life that shapes family identities as surely as happy, smiling Kodak moments.