Saturday, January 11, 2014

People Don't Change Much: Portraits, Self-Portraits and Kitchens

It's very easy to become absorbed by things we view as defining the 'now', and to forget that actually, as with all things in life, things move in cycles. Tastes recycle themselves and come back around almost as quickly as the new weekend. The newspapers use the same language to describe immigrants as they always have, replacing nouns every ten years but the copy staying the same. The selfie- the phenomenon of 2013- picked up where photographer Vivian Maier left off, her self-portraits captured in bathroom mirrors and shop windows from the 1950s onwards. When the film Bill Cunningham New York exposed the Manhattan-based photographer to the rest of the world, we changed the way we talked about street style photography- this fascination with the person on the street wasn't actually the product of the web revolution (though it helped), it was an innate human nosiness that preceded The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman- and even Cunningham himself. What about August Sander and his captivating snapshots of the Weimar Republic in the early 20th century? His portraits show farm labourers, organ grinders, lawyers, blind children, aristocrats and Young National Socialists- his lens was as great a social leveller as that of Bill Cunningham. 

I'm digressing- my point is that when you've spent as much time over the years absorbing personal style blogs or The Selby-style interiors portraits as I have, it's easy to view them as some modern convention that sort of landed on the internet along with Twitter and livestreams of fashion shows. 

My friend Emily pointed me in the direction of Dinanda H. Nooney (via Messy Nessy Chic) who was documenting Brooklyn residents in their homes in the late 1970s. The joy of the New York Public Library online archive means that hundreds of Nooney's photographs are available for the perusal of yourself and I. It makes a refreshing change to look at these photographs without an accompanying interview which is the norm for interiors porn these days. Was this person, standing in their kitchen a graphic designer who decided to live in the area because they wanted to be surrounded by fellow artists? Who knows. Maybe- that isn't an idiosyncrasy of the 2010s. But maybe not, I don't know. It's just nice to scroll through these portraits of strangers in their studies, their bedrooms, their kitchens, while I'm sitting at my own kitchen table. People don't change much. 


And the view from here. I'm in my kitchen in Manchester, where I've spent much of today reading the papers, browsing the internet, cooking (potato salad, red cabbage slaw and broccolli and chickpea salad) and summoning blog-spiration, which happened when Emily's recommendation landed in my inbox. David Bowie is streaming through Spotify- I've listened to Ziggy Stardust, Let's Dance and Young Americans in full. I started off drinking coffee, then onto rooibos, and now a vodka tonic is at my elbow, squatly in the glass which is packed to the rafters with lime, mint and ice.


Aimufua said...

wow, this is great!

Eliza said...

Hmm.. I agree that things move in cycles, but opinion also moves in great swathes, making it almost impossible for us to, say, understand the mindset of a medieval peasant. Having said that, i've been thinking about the burka vs C17th Dutch clothing on my blog recently.... Sometimes we overthink our own modernity
E x

Dreaming in Brighton said...

I love catching glimpses into other people's homes and there's something nice about not being provided with their story pasted next to each image. It allows you to indulge in your own fantasies and let your imagination run wild as to who they are and what kind of life they must lead.