Silvia Bernardi, Fabio Dei

«Gruppo di famiglia in un interno»: Photographs in Domestic Material Culture

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: photographs, material culture, domestic ethnography, videotour, cultural memory.

In this paper we explore a particular and rather marginal aspect of visual culture in everyday life: the use of photos in domestic spaces. Based on ethnographic research in middle-class homes in four Tuscan towns, the paper deals with photos as a kind of material culture: like other "objects of affection", they play a crucial role in the shaping of a family's cultural memory. Collecting and exhibiting photos is a way of marking vertical ("lineage") and horizontal ("alliance") social relations, projecting family back into the past and forward into the future. Domestic pictures are also involved in strategies of aesthetic and social distinction. We discuss a typology of photo uses, including the "little shrine", family album, "iconoclasm", "box of secrets", youth showcase, and "popular taste". Ethnographic materials show the work of strong cultural patterns, which at the same time make the expression of a wide range of personal experiences and narratives possible.

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