Couching portraits as comment
November 20, 2007 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Sofa Portraits. Colin Pantall takes photographs, primarily of his daughter watching television. Lush imagery, sidelong comment, surprising intimacy.
posted by klangklangston (51 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
A quick perusal of the sofa portraits leads me to a certain unavoidable conclusion: kid watches TOO MUCH GODDAMN TV!

(Oh, and also, they could stand to straighten up their house now and again...)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 PM on November 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Repose.

Some of the best pictures I've taken of my own kids have been while they watched TV. Because it's the only time they sit still.

His daughter is stunning.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2007


She's so motionless, with that slack-jawed stare - really quite an indictment against tv watching. I've never seen pictures of a living kid appear so lifeless. I found them disturbing.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2007


This is my favorite.
posted by klangklangston at 4:59 PM on November 20, 2007


While these are absolutely wonderful photos from the perspective of their intimacy, the glazed-over look that comes from television consumption, and it's similarity to empty "android" stare of a model on a runway (thanks, Guy Trebay, for the perfect phrase) creeps me out. I'm with TLF on this one.
posted by scblackman at 5:01 PM on November 20, 2007


I was coming to say something similar to The Light Fantastic there. Not the expression of the engaged spirit, it seemed.
posted by Abiezer at 5:05 PM on November 20, 2007


Looked like the kind of shots that we see of kids in third world countries, or war torn areas.... I hope this guy is seeing what we are seeing...

and, felt a bit exploitative to me....
posted by HuronBob at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2007


HuronBob, haven't you learned? The camera is always exploiting.
posted by Mercaptan at 5:30 PM on November 20, 2007


Yeah, 'cause I bet if someone took portraits of any of you in the midst of watching the one hour of cultured TV you permit yourself a week, your faces would be a constant picture of enlivened, engaged intelligence and spark-of-life brilliance.
posted by chrismear at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Jesus Christ. Dude. Semi-naked pictures of children = NSFW warning please next time?

Other than making me fear for my job, these pictures are great examples of the magic of narrow depth of field.
posted by mullingitover at 5:33 PM on November 20, 2007


I came in here to say what flapjax at midnite said: "Turn off the TV, and clean your house."
posted by spacely_sprocket at 5:40 PM on November 20, 2007


"Semi-naked pictures of children = NSFW warning please next time?"

Seriously? They're not even Jock Sturges. Anyone who'd give you shit should wonder why they find those images scary.
posted by klangklangston at 5:40 PM on November 20, 2007


This is the only one that struck me as remotely sexual, because a lot of little girls I've known did some too-public self-discovery in this pose and milleu. But mostly, I identify with these. ;) Her carefree isolation seems refreshingly autonomous among representations of children anymore.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2007


I loved these -- there's something so expressive about them, and I remember being her age and flopping on the sofa in a dark room, just letting my brain shut down and watch tv for a bit. Yes, it's probably a little disturbing, but as I wasn't doing it it every waking hour...it's a really happy, content memory, that I guess is hard to explain.
posted by kalimac at 6:03 PM on November 20, 2007


Well, precisely, chrismear - it's the telly I'm suggesting is at fault, not the girl. Wind yer neck in!
posted by Abiezer at 6:06 PM on November 20, 2007


Brilliant. Something about it...so personal, yes, intimate, plain real. Loved that. Thanks klang.
posted by nickyskye at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2007


These are great, and they make me feel creepy and paranoid just for the "OMG little girl pix" factor. Which is sad. These are sad times.
posted by everichon at 6:27 PM on November 20, 2007


These are not great. They are not brilliant. If you came upon them in a photograph album at the Goodwill you'd doubt that the whole thing was worth the 25 cent price tag they had on it (and you know it). The fact that it is a web page and somebody linked to it does not, in and of itself, make something brilliant or great.

I'm sure you fawning bah-stahds thought the emperor's new clothes were "gorgeous" and "brilliant" too.
posted by spock at 6:40 PM on November 20, 2007


I say! A difference of artistic opinion. Still, I'm sure we will resolve it to our satisfaction through reasoned and rational debate.
posted by Abiezer at 6:43 PM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can't all be pencil sharpening techniques, Spock.
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 PM on November 20, 2007


Does anyone else think her eyes have been photoshopped? or am I just cynical?
posted by whoaali at 7:11 PM on November 20, 2007


Great photos, and the website doesn't get in the way of looking at them, which seems even rarer than great photos nowadays. Thanks!
posted by gum at 7:23 PM on November 20, 2007


I liked these. I actually thought there was quite a range of expression in them- utter boredom, to complete absorbtion, to lively interest.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:31 PM on November 20, 2007


Ambrosia Voyeur: really? carefree isolation? To me it looked pitiful - the poor kid is presumably a single child, and is stuck inside watching television bored out of her mind because she's not allowed to go outside and hasn't got anyone to play with (or in some of the photos, perhaps because it's a stupidly hot day where you don't want to do anything, you just want it to be over).
posted by jacalata at 8:29 PM on November 20, 2007


Wolfram Hahn’s photos of children watching TV.
posted by Sailormom at 9:15 PM on November 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


jacalata: I direct you to my remark that I related to these images. I wound up a media studies wonk, after all. I started that way as a latchkey kid (and only child till age 11) with a PBS proclivity.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:34 PM on November 20, 2007


See, what I like about these is the photographer's apparent restraint, the sort of offhand humanity he allows to emerge in the variations of pose etc. in the same basic scene.

Best of all, none of the kneejerk polemics this Wolfram Hahn employs in Sailormom's link:

. . . they seem lifeless like dolls, or bodies bereft of their spirits . . . [obligatory Postman quote] . . . These kids were photographed watching TV . . . The subtle charm of real life is lost when under the influence.

Yes, Herr Hahn, and only demonic TV creates such poses, elicits such stares. Certainly I never catch such glazed meditativeness in my own two-year-old daughter's face in the rearview when she's sitting in her car seat on the ride home after a long day at playschool. Nor, for that matter, in the commuters across the lane from me in traffic, waiting for the light to change. Nor, no doubt, in my own face, sitting at my computer mid-workday, staring off into space trying to remember the word I was looking for.

No, only TV. Evil, hateful, poisonous TV.

What I'm saying, I guess, is that this Pantrall's work reveals just how lazy that argument is in (for example) that Hahn dude's schtick.
posted by gompa at 10:05 PM on November 20, 2007


Sorry, completely creepy... and no, I don't think they look tired, or worn out... they look brain dead.
posted by emmet at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2007


This is the only one that struck me as remotely sexual, because a lot of little girls I've known did some too-public self-discovery in this pose and milleu.

I used to sleep like that. I thought it was a cute pic.
posted by vira at 10:27 PM on November 20, 2007


Can't all be pencil sharpening techniques, Spock.


There's a story behind that one. . .
posted by spock at 11:29 PM on November 20, 2007


There's a story behind that one. . .

Lemme take a wild guess: it's a post you made. Izzat rite?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:47 PM on November 20, 2007


Abiezer, my point is that one can be a stimulated, well-rounded individual, and yet still have moments in time when you're glassy-eyed in front of the goggle box. And you'll end up with pretty much the same expression whether you're engaged with a fascinating documentary or just viewing comic paff to fill in the long lonely evening and give your brain a rest, because, yes, it's a passive medium. These photos prove nothing.
posted by chrismear at 11:54 PM on November 20, 2007


These photos prove nothing.

Wrong. These photos prove everything. There is now nothing left unproved. Also, the proof is in the pudding. That too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:57 PM on November 20, 2007


The fact that it is a web page and somebody linked to it does not, in and of itself, make something brilliant or great.

Oh, really? Damn.

And, you know, if you were to go back to Hahn's site (which I thought was really nice except for the emberassing ten-second polemic at the begining) and imagine the TV those kids are looking at as UP, instead of DOWN... They would probably look altogether different.

Which is why I liked these others better. The landscape photos are nice as well, though not as concise.

Thanks. And, could someone maybe tell me which sites _are_ brilliant and great? I mean in the future? Maybe I should take it to MeTa, it'd be my first PONY...
posted by From Bklyn at 12:18 AM on November 21, 2007


I'm with those who question the meaning read into facial expressions alone. Interpretation of facial expressions is, in part, subjective. Secondly, these moments are taken out of context, because they are just that--moments. The complexity of a personality is not, I don't think, conveyed in a single moment.

To give an analagous example, I've noticed that the Dalai Lama, when he's listening to someone speak, often has a look that could be construed as grumpy/angry, though I think he's just concentrating. However, if I were to make a photo gallery of a bunch of snapshots of those moments of grumpy-thinky-face, one might suppose, lacking other evidence, that he's a sourpuss.

Having said that, these images remain disturbing to me, and others, and I think that probably has a lot to do with the context we bring to their interpretation. That is, knowing that these kids are watching TV, our feelings about that are brought to bear on our interpretations of their facial expressions.

Which doesn't diminish their value or power as images, in my opinion.
posted by flotson at 12:23 AM on November 21, 2007


I am drunk and aware of metamodding, but one of the things I liked was the ambiguity of expression that the girl had, and I was also really able to identify with her.

I thought that this didn't have the didacticism that I'd associate with the general subject, though they did have critique. I also got a kick out of how the kid aged.
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 AM on November 21, 2007


Well, having sarcastically dismissed the potential for a discussion moving minds, I see some of the interesting points made above. But I do retain faith in my initial reaction to a large extent - I see a qualitative difference with other images and impressions of people and specifically children at rest, and it is more vacant that merely still.
posted by Abiezer at 4:04 AM on November 21, 2007


Yes, Herr Hahn, and only demonic TV creates such poses, elicits such stares.

Actually, I turned on the iSight camera on my Mac and discovered that I also have the same slack-jawed, glazed-over, vacant-eyed stare when I'm reading MetaTalk.
posted by scblackman at 4:18 AM on November 21, 2007


I was going to say what gompa and flotson said. I noticed quite a range of expression, from passive to engaged. I imagine my own face expresses that kind of range when doing all the things I do, from work to commuting to consuming media, probably even when I'm with friends and family. I don't see what's so wrong with disengaging for a few moments every once in a while. A person needs to be alone and quiet now and then...not just in a quiet room, but a quiet brain, too. I have a hard time believing that my face looks much different when reading great books than it does when I'm watching Weeds. Blank, except when I stop to laugh, express surprise, or yell out a prediction (or answer, in the case of Jeopardy!) The only real difference is that I've yet to find a very comfortable way to read with half my face smushed against a pillow. These photos represent less than a minute of this child's life.
posted by lampoil at 4:52 AM on November 21, 2007


TV is still evil, though.
posted by flotson at 6:04 AM on November 21, 2007


Definitely.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on November 21, 2007


Keep in mind that the photographs displayed are the ones the photographer chose to group together. Most likely he had hundreds to choose from. There was a thread a few months back that had photos of white men with Chinese daughters. DaShiv pointed out that "A photographer has many choices when making a photo. There are many that take place before and leading up to the shutter click, but one of the biggest takes place in considering what to present." We are only seeing the photographs that Colin Pantall wants us to see.
posted by Sailormom at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2007


"Television is evil!"

"I masturbate to The Wire!"

C'mon, pick one and stick with it, guys.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2007


For contrast, a series of photos of people playing video games.

(There's another series of candid full body photos of gamers gaming out there that appeared in the New Yorker or New York Times or something similar, but my google-fu fails me.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2007


series of candid full body photos of gamers gaming

Found it.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:39 AM on November 21, 2007


"These portraits portray the flawed physicality of childhood and its mental and physical freedoms - but also the constraints that are applied by the adult world - the furnishings Isabel is so often pushing against, the dress determined by the educational system she is now part of, or even the attitudes to her physical self-expression as she watches television.

Sheesh. It's a kid watching TV.
posted by brautigan at 10:04 AM on November 21, 2007


Say what you will about TV, but I'm pretty sure you could get photos of people who are using the web (MeFi, even!) with equally vacant stares.
posted by mullingitover at 10:55 AM on November 21, 2007


(Oh, and also, they could stand to straighten up their house now and again...)

What a beautifully priggish comment.

(I mean it nicely - I love your phrasing there, flapjax at midnite!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2007


Right after I got my new MacBook at work, I was messing with the built in camera and accidentally left it on while I did work using my primary display. I glanced over at the moving image of the camera input and was *completely* appalled at awful I looked when concentrating/eye-deep in OmniPlan. I turned it off immediately, but my point is that I bet we all look a little off/disconnected/vacant/slouchy when completely immersed in something.

Also, I think the photos are striking and that TV is most certainly not evil. Geesh.
posted by bienbiensuper at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2007


She looks braindead/lost/whatever because she's focusing on something behind the camera, because the camera's between her and the TV.

That's what people look like when they focus behind you and you expect them to be focused on you.

Now stop projecting.
posted by mendel at 5:37 PM on November 22, 2007


This mendel-ed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:46 PM on November 22, 2007


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