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Photographs do not simply serve as visual mementos of a familys past Through its inherent conventions the camera and its by-products the photographic image and the family album help to construct and perpetuate the ideology of the family whilst simultaneously acting as an equalizing force in society The function of the family photograph does not dissolve at this point Family photographs and snapshots also preserve ancestral history and perpetuate memories thereby acting as a means of familial self-representation When George Eastman invented the Kodak in 1888 his intended consumers were not professional photographers but people who had seen photographs but had not actually thought of taking them any more than they thought of painting pictures etc With the slogan You push the button we do the restBishop P 1999 Photography Lecture notes week one its affordability for those with modest means and its mobile nature the camera allowed the poor to see themselves preserved and everyone to have access to the visual illusions which photography exhibitsHirsch 1981 The camera entered the domain of the ordinary and the domestic It was a form of representation which cut across classes disguised social differences and produced a sympathy of the exploiters with the exploited Thus photography quickly became the familys primary instrument of self-knowledge and representation-the means by which the family memory would be continued and perpetuated by which the familys story could be told In this sense the photograph functioned as a kind of equalizing force to the masses democratisation was achieved through the image by enabling all families to look more or less alikeHirsch 1981 The definition or ideology of family as an autonomous group-spiritual state a bond of nurturance-independenty constituted and self-containingHirsch 1981 pp32-35 emerged in the renaissance period a time of social and economic instability Today in contemporary society the photographs social functions are still integrally tied to the ideology of the family For example the compulsive smiles in the snapshots of
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