Pictures of Innocence
Thames and Hudson, 1998
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.Anne Higonnet
Few photographs other than snapshots take on the feelings of grotesqueness that can accompany pregnancy; in snapshots, expressing such feelings can be accomplished with a light touch. Dick Blau also points to the humor of the near-term pregant belly, using clinical measurement as an ironic sign.Sandra Matthews, Laura Wexler
Strategic multiplication and indexical pointing within the pose nearly always result in caricatures of already exaggerated female bodies. The pregant body is not represented in family photographs as too powerful, however. Humor mostly serves the function of enabling a subjective representation and, simultaneously, disarming it.