Larry Sultan: Pictures from Home  

  September –
October 2002

Image by Larry Sultan from the exhibition Pictures from Home at the Gallery Of Photography from September 25 to October 28 2002.

Pictures from Home, Larry Sultan’s portrait of his own childhood and his parents’ realisation of and ultimate betrayal by the American Dream is an extraordinarily affecting body of work. This exhibition brings together family photographs – including both memorabilia and his own pictures – and the voices of his father and mother commenting on those photographs and their lives. Part family album, part visual novella, this work explores complicated emotional issues about the nature of photography.

Sultan’s family measures its progress by conventional benchmarks that define postwar America’s aspirations: the birth of children; the achievement of financial security; a progression of suburban houses; his father’s climb up the corporate ladder; his mother’s growing need for a life outside the home. Eventually, the family faces the painful realities of aging, narrowing options and calcifying relationships. The various forms of photographs in Pictures from Home tell these stories in a heightened, almost operatic manner.

Stills that Sultan has culled from home movies present a west coast of America both mythic and pastoral, expressed in a visual language alive with symbols of journeying, rebirth and growth. Snapshots, with their awkward framing, convey a feeling of sweet intimacy.

Corporate images of Sultan’s father, presented in company reports and other publicity material, portray the public man.

Texts – anecdotes, stories and comments about the photographs from the viewpoint of the artist and his parents openly air both his doubts about the conventional family album and his parents’ protests against his own more
self-conscious work.

A remarkable series of portraits of his parents taken by Sultan over the last decade offers a darker and more compromised, if at times suspect, version of the chronicle unfolded by the family’s own archive.

Sultan undermines any claim that photographs can be truthful and implicitly suggests that any arrangement of photographs that purports to be a documentary history is really an elaborate fiction. He suggests that photography affects, and is affected by, social relationships more than any other visual art forms. In Pictures from Home, Sultan has gone to great lengths to reveal those relationships.

About the Artist: Larry Sultan lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. He is represented by Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco and Janet Borden Inc., New York. A limited number of copies of the book, Pictures from Home, are available to accompany this exhibition, priced 100 euro. This book is a contemporary classic and is now extremely rare.