Magazine article Artforum International

Pictures from Home

Magazine article Artforum International

Pictures from Home

Article excerpt

PICTURES FROM HOME BY LARRY SULTAN LONDON: MACK. I96 PAGES. $50.

PICTURES FROM HOME wonders why you never call. Larry Sultan's influential photobook of his parents, Irving and Jean, in their suburban Camelot must make every reader itchy to phone their family. Large-format color portraits of the elder Sultans posing or padding around the house are interspersed with home-movie stills and plainspoken text, including musings from Sultan about his motivations and interviews with his subjects.

The book, first published in 1992 and recently reissued with new material, has aged perfectly, providing a sugar high of pure upper-middle-class white Southern California kitsch--heavy on the foil wallpaper, wall-to-wall carpet, and golfing paraphernalia. While Tina Barney was busy capturing her wealthy New England clan and Philip-Lorca DiCorcia was paying to photograph LA hustlers, Sultan got Mom and Dad on the line.

Returning home for periodic visits over the course of a decade, he gave himself an unusually unsentimental assignment. In the book's text, he writes that he was galled by the era's prevailing Reaganite "family values," that cult of cheerful striving: "I wanted to puncture this mythology ... and show what happens when we are driven by images of success." Like any good observer of suburban subtext, Sultan finds thin optimism and soft-pedaled disappointment apparent everywhere.

His parents were simultaneously game and wary to participate in the project, one pitched somewhere between fact and fiction, documentary and performance. …

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