Family Photographs and Ontological Narrativity: A Relational, Performative, and Ecological Approach

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Andrea DOUCET, Brock University, Canada
The study of family photographs and family photographic practices occupy a small corner of both visual sociology and family sociologies (see Chalfen, 1987, 2002; Kuhn, 2002, 2007; Langford, 2001; McAllister, 2006; Pauwels, 2002, 2008; Rose, 2004, 2010). As Gillian Rose notes, there are very few studies on family photographs and even fewer studies that pay attention “to the many things that are done with family snaps, particularly how they are made, stored and displayed” and to the “social practices in which they are embedded” (Rose, 2010, p. 12; see also Chalfen, 1987, 2002; Hof, 2006; Larsen, 2005). Building closely on the work of Rose and Chalfen, I argue in this paper that family photography is not simply a collection of images or a textual archive, but is “something that people do … as a social practice” (Rose, 2010, p. 1) as well as a methodological resource for the making and re-making of family narratives and practices across time. While family photographs are often viewed as representations of families, I argue for a non-representational approach to family photographs. Working with non-representational theories and methods (see Mauthner, 2015; Thrift, 2008; Vannini, 2015; Verran, 2011), and informed by a wide set of epistemological and ontological resources that are performative, ecological (Code, 2006, 2008; Ingold, 2011, 2015) and relational, I develop an argument that frames family photographs as moments of “ontological narrativity” (Somers, 1994, 1995), as sites of ongoing affective relationships, and as “both compositional and lived” (Stewart, 2010).