New Criticals

Long before the advent of Facebook walls and Pinterest boards, Don Slater (1995) suggested that pinboards and walls were perhaps the apt metaphor for digital photography. While traditional photo albums are re-presentational narratives that “seem to bolt a constructed identity into the natural flow of time” (138), pinboards and walls are “ways of acting out and embodying a relationship in the present” (139). We self-present through images, and visual scraps like photographs, jotted quotes, and saved posters make up the material of our daily lives. “The image,” Slater says, “is the way we present ourselves in the heat of the moment rather than the way we represent that moment as an object of reflection” (140). This is a critical shift for family photos, which we have long understood as families’ way of reflecting on and narrating themselves. Susan Sontag said, “Through photographs, each family constructs a portrait-chronicle of itself—a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness” (1977: 8). Mothers’ work as family archivists has thus moved from producing a reflective narrative of the family story to continuously presenting the family visually as a way to live in and experience the present.