A history of pictures

I’ve been reading a History of Pictures[1] this week. The book’s strength has been to draw my attention to particular works and draw out particular points. This began at the very beginning where a point about connections across genres and styles was made by reference to the Walt Disney’s cartoon frame from Pinocchio and Utagawa Hiroshige’s woodblock print Naruto Whirlpool and carried on through the book. This was the real power of the book. The examples offer the richness to the points made and deepen one’s awareness and appreciation of the work referred to. Moreover the use of examples is made all the more powerful because the references are not limited to paintings but include photographs, cartoons and cinema.

My thought about it today was around the fixed or moving focus. Hockney talks about with way some pictures offer a fixed focus while others such as scrolls offer one that moves. I related this point – albeit in a different type of context – to two images of my late dad.

This photo was taken at 4.37 pm on Monday June 6th and shows dad 1/100th of a second. untitled-2374

There is little to the photo with dad’s shirt and bed framing his face. His eyes look directly toward to lens and by doing so he engages the viewer. This is a fixed focus to me.

This next photo is also of dad but very different. This was taken on Wednesday June 8th at 9.58pm shortly after dad had died. The view is wider and references dad’s family through the photos on the wall, the urine bottle suggest illness and dad’s position in the bed and lack of eye contact suggest he is not actively part of the process of recording this vista.


So two photos of dad with very different focal points, narratives and evocations. Yet for me the power each image has is amplified by the other and so they work best as a pair or part of a set. One minute dad was here and the next he was gone and just his shell left.

The house evokes a very similar feeling as each time I visit seems less like the home it was and more like a fading shadow.


[1]  A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen, by D. Hockney, M. Gayford (Author), October 2016


About anomiepete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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