What Your Mother Has to Do With Photography

The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, written by Elissa Marder,  grows out of the author’s longstanding fascination with “the uncanny status of the mother in photography” (frankly, until I read this, I had no idea that mothers had any status in photography). Marder “examines the properties of the maternal function to show that the event of birth is radically unthinkable and often becomes expressed through uncontrollable repetitions that exceed the bounds of any subject,” the act of photographing being one means by which these repetitions are concretized.

Marder’s thesis is that The maternal body serves as an unacknowledged reference point for modern media technologies such as photography, which attempts to mimic its reproductive properties. To the extent that photography aims to usurp the maternal function, it is often deployed as a means of regulating or warding off anxieties that are provoked by the experience of loss that real separation from the mother invariably demands.

So, to summarize: the reason you like photography is because you’re neurotic, and you’re neurotic because your mother didn’t love you enough.

Let me know if you’d like a full review.

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15 thoughts on “What Your Mother Has to Do With Photography

  1. Nic

    “Let me know if you’d like a full review.”.

    I would not push for it… I would rather spend time in front of my enlarger than read such nonsense.

  2. Michael Beringer

    My mother has always encouraged me to never give up on my photography. She says it my inner music and I have to let it out. I’ve worked at traditional film photography for more than 45 years. Digital is regulated to my phone. In recent years I struggle with what is the point of traditional photography anymore? But something inside of me just can’t stop. I so enjoy your comments. Keep the flame alive.

  3. Rob Campbell

    I would enjoy the quiet giggle, and might even pick up on something I hadn’t thought of before. Anyway, better than looking at boring snaps on some other sites; as I have neither interest nor ability in ARAT, it leaves me cold, as does the alternative, porn.

    Frankly, anything Tim feels like sticking up on the board is okay with me: it’s why I and, I imagine, the rest of us are here: we enjoy his interests – except the cycles, which were okay until I got a reliable car.




    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Actually, Rob, I posted this just to piss off StephenJ. He seems to be a good sport though, and I suspect won’t take it personally. He should be aware, however, that there’s much more where this came from.

      1. Rob Campbell

        Tim, after listening to our politicians speaking like robots about Brexit, I think there’s little out there that can compete. It’s one thing to invent nonsensical artspeak, but when somebody can tell you that both available alternatives are worse for the economy and future of the country than the status quo, but that it’s a political duty to deliver on one of those other two alternatives, regardless of cost, then reality and the meaning of duty and responsibility has changed for ever. And to imagine we were supposed to be a pragmatic nation. Anyway, I’d been led to believe that, in Britain, assisted suicide was a criminal offence.

        I wonder if killing a nation rates as highly?

        My daughter is coming out to Mallorca to spend some days with me next month; she now has to buy travel/health insurance to visit me, health insurance that once came free, as right. Great. I forget how many million Brits came to Spain every year, entitled to the local services, but if they still come, then the insurance companies will rub their little hands together in glee! Hey, that may encourage people to vacation in Scunthorpe or Leeds instead; help conserve the pound and the car industry. Of course, perhaps the political way of looking at that industry’s survival within the UK is that as the quid sinks ever lower, tariffs put upon parts going from there across to Europe will not matter, on the principle that ten percent or whatever imposed on something worth nothing is still pretty much nothing. The things we bring upon ourselves.



        1. Leicaphila Post author

          Free Health Insurance? I can only wish. Given I’m American, I don’t have any, and I’m 60 and solidly middle class. The reason I don’t have any? I can’t afford it. It’s insane how expensive it is. Unless I’m looking for a hert transplant, its cheaper just to pay out of pocket. Of course, this is a small price to pay for living in “the land of the free.”

          1. Rob Campbell

            When my wife and I came to live here we were not eligible for the Spanish services because we had never contributed towards them, which seemed fair enough, and so we took out private health insurance. As I was still commercially active, we could.

            We continued paying that even after we became eligible for the local health services. In 2004 she found a lump. Four cancer ops on the private insurance later, she fell and broke a hip, The pain was very strong, so when she was asked if she wanted the ambulance to take her the long drive to the private hospital in Palma or the social services one half the distance away, she opted for the closer.

            They diagnosed the broken hip and she was scheduled for the op two days later. Just before that, another X-Ray showed cancer was back, and the oncologist said he didn`t wan’t to wait more than ten days for that to be acted upon. In ten days she had both a new hip and her last cancer operation. She found the quality of service to be so good that she wondered why the hell we were paying so much for private health. So we cancelled it.

            That was ten years ago, at the time of the financial crash. Then it cost us € 3600 a year. That represents, if the price has not increased since those days, thirty-six grand that has been saved. She didn’t survive more than six or seven months more, but by then, cancer had got her everywhere.

            Today, we could not afford to pay that sort of money anymore. I often wonder where all the supposedly rich pensioners are. The millionaires are here in droves, but ordinary pensioners mostly can’t afford such private luxuries. No wonder there is so much real, validly based fear here today.



  4. JR

    If it’s provocative, yes please 🙂

    I see that provocation seems to be everywhere now, as if we’d all drunk some potion and abandoned the centre, some of us running to the right, others to the left. Never been a better time to be a photographer, or worse perhaps.

    Thanks to the guys at the Leica Amsterdam shop for a great chat, coffee and letting me use the gallery to make my confcall! I couldn’t concentrate though because of the incredible photographs on the wall; pointed them to this blog…JR

  5. StephenJ

    Ah Rob, still missing the point of leaving the EU, “independence”. It was a binary offer, you only had 10 choices… leave or remain.

    Free health insurance was never an option. There was an agreement between those member states that your local health care provider would cover the costs of health care that was provided during a visit to another participating member state. The reality is that the UK pays for all of its citizens abroad, but also pays for most of those who don’t contribute here.

    The NHS provides the same “free” health insurance in Britain. Of course none of it is actually free, it is just the socialist wet dream of having the government look after its subjects “from cradle to grave”. Instead what it actually does is create a client state, with no individual taking any responsibility for their own health, as is common in the US.

    Such arrangements have frequently been made between separate nations and companies… I can buy an Apple device in Raleigh, and have the same guarantees and service in London for that device. They do it with a computer maintained data base, they don’t need, indeed they eschew an overly burdensome “back office”, or bureaucracy as we say.

    As for dependence on mother…

    For a lot of people here it would be more like “hanging on to nurse, for fear of something worse”.

    The problem across the first world planet is that somehow because of a tendency for people to want a quiet life, free of government interference, we have allowed the untrammelled development of “closed shops”.

    Regarding healthcare, an insurance based (or in my case socialist government based) closed shop, provides one kind of healthcare that is deemed to be official, and the government protects us from those that would offer something else. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are treated as gods, whilst the less aggressive forms of health care remain outside that protective shield. Government protection does not come cheap, especially when there are many equally protected litigation specialists (lawyers) hanging around the hospital grounds.

    The same goes for many other fields of activity…

    … Unless you are a coal miner, ship builder, fisherman or factory worker… in such cases, the government and the employer gang up and ensure that no closed shop is allowed to form.

    I might have said this before, but the recent referendum is actually about something that caused the USA to go to war…

    No taxation, without representation.

    You really should have stayed as part of the United Kingdom, you populist Yanks. Our politicians here should rightfully be lording it over you, because “free mobile roaming” because “free universal healthcare”, because “climate change”, because… because…

    Those soviet like, old men in Brussels are just that, a bunch of old men who will do anything in order to enslave the people that they claim to be looking after. They are on a 1950’s project to create competition for the USSR… Well let me tell you, they have nearly sunk to that nadir.

    For instance, if your daughter is under 25 and living in Spain, there is a 30% chance that she will have never been to work. It’s called globalism and it is where the citizen comes very low on the list of government priorities, who are more interested in funding their lavish lifestyles through unrepresentative taxation than actually representing the interests of ordinary folk.

    But what they are really doing is working on the late George Bush’s “New World Order”.

    Personally, I like the French, they are as odd as us island people, I even like the mechanical ability of the germans, who make some good cameras. Why we need to have a globalist/corporatist bureaucracy bent on making us all the same, is beyond me.

    I am not pissed off at Tim or Rob, but I am pissed off that we are being governed by traitors. By that I do not mean traitors to the state, I mean something far more fundamental, they are traitors to the people that pay them a kings ransom.

  6. Rob Campbell

    Just briefly.

    Binary choice. That was the trouble, it didn’t provide credible background information for informed choice; instead, it provided a platform for the residual, reactionary fans of Queen Victoria’s day – you know, let’s send a gunboat and fix these pesky foreigners. It promised dreams of redistribution of imaginary money to the health service you apparently dislike. Yes, of course everybody working contributes to that service and, in that sense, it’s not free: governments have no money – they have to use ours as best they can for the greater good, though naturally, that introduces political dependency on a particular demographic just to get elected and then cling to power. However, though I have never voted left, it was an excellent concept and provides care for people who never were, and almost certainly never will be rich (Include me in) free at the point of delivery, which is where and when you need it.

    Industry. Having destroyed most of our own during the post-WW2 period because of political cant and vested tribal interests (thank God for Maggie, who ended much of that) we were given a second industrial chance by foreign companies willing to take the risk and invest in the UK. Now, we threaten to make such investment impractical to maintain because of the inevitable (if we quit Europe) introduction of new import/export costs, and in a world where bits are made here, there and everywhere, to be assembled somewhere else, that’s a lot of added costs if the movements attract customs duties or tariffs of any sort at each movement to a different jurisdiction.

    Health abroad. However it is funded, it’s a two-way deal, and permits all European member state citizens that “freedom” you mentioned; not just in your land of birth, but anywhere in the club. If you believe that Britain pays for the health pf people with no right to it, that should be taken up in the local arena, not conflated with the broader agreement. In exactly the same way, really, that would stop Britain appearing a better target for third-world migrants trying to hop over from other parts of Europe where they already have equal claim for sanctuary but would rather screw our different, perhaps more generous internal benefits systems instead. That’s not a European-caused problem: it’s of our own making.

    No taxation without representation. How does Europe give us that? We elect our own Members of the European Parliament. We certainly do get representation. Your apparent buddy Farage enjoyed time there…

    New World Order. You better believe it. Obama told Britain the truth regarding possible post-Brexit deals with the USA: take your place at the end of the queue, he told us. You believe anything to the contrary that slips from the lips of the Orange One? To give him credit, he never made any secret of making American employment the top priority; hard to see where the British rust belts would figure in that calculus as he tries to rebuild his own. I don’t know what kind of physical size you were as a kid; I was skinny and still am: It was never something that created a sense of power. Britain, in a word being polarized by massive powers like China, the USA and, soon, India (which will itself have to decide with which super block to pedge allegiance) needs all the friendly muscle it can muster. This is no time for going small and insulting our closest neighbours.

    Traitors. Yes, if our politician guys and gals don’t do the right thing and save Britain from suicide led by a wafer-thin majority, then I have to agree with your view of them. Maggie would never have allowed such a situation to develop, but then hey, even she was stabbed in the back by her own party (I wonder how much that had to do with her rapid decline in health after leaving office?) and Mrs May is going the same route, however she tries to play her game now.

    But hey, I’m tired and it’s time to rest my eyes before going to bed.

    Buenas noches.

    1. StephenJ

      Yes binary choice….

      01: do you want to have a government that you can’t remove, whose staff make decisions that you cannot disagree with and remove and have undone at the next election. Rule by technocratic bureaucratic “experts”.

      10: do you want a government that you can chuck out at the next election.

      That is all you need to know, it is a simple choice… But let’s be clear, if you were in the UK at the time of the campaign, you would know that there was a great deal of information to mull over, should you stray away from the BBC news. Amongst all that noise the only group that could be accused of nostalgia or wishful thinking were those that were going for remain, hanging onto nurse. You know, those who had been ranting on for forty years about how brilliant the EU is and how those that didn’t think so were just nostalgic for Queen Victoria… That if I may say is utter bollocks, quite the contrary, the complaint from people like me was that the EU held us back. It was imbued with 1950’s attitudes. Oh, and during the period from our joining to our vote to leave, the EEC/EU went from a 40% world market share of business, to 15%, a figure which is still in decline, even though the EU is gathering more satellites.

      The dream of redistribution of “imaginary money” (is that like the money that the EU can’t account for for the last 22 years?).

      The problem with the NHS is that it tends to make people dependent. An insurance based system whether that be compulsory as in many other EU member states or voluntary as in the US, encourages people to think about their own condition before resorting to big pharma, in the former, there are usually token costs involved, in America, you pay the whole lot. My point about closed shops has significant impact here.

      Take a look at the video by such people as Terry Wahl (just one of thousands). She realised that her chronic (killer) auto-immune condition was being caused by poor lifestyle and dietary choices. The truth is that there are many in the world, who really believe that doctor always knows best. However, s/he has 5 minutes to work out your problem and send you off with some smarties. That is hardly conducive to maintaining good health.

      In America, where people like Tim cannot afford the premium, there is a massive preventative health system, which is cheap… I give you Apple, as an example, a company that produces a device that helps people understand their personal condition, and advises on what you might do to improve things…

      Such things as these two examples, do not come out of a place where the ill-health system (for that is what it really is) is all pervasive.

      Tariff was something that a free trade agreement, does away with, the EEC/EU customs union was not and never was a free trade agreement… You don’t pay up front for one of those, it wouldn’t be free. However the cost of tariff to a business is a fixed and known cost, unlike the daily variations of currency prices, industry copes pretty well with both though.

      The industrial performance of Britain, pre-Thatcher was the result of an attempt to bureaucratise it. The costs of these fees can be reduced to zero by agreement, the sort of agreement that the EU 27/28 cannot seem to make, it has the worst record, after N Korea and Cuba at making them. Just in time manufacture is not exclusive to the EU, indeed there are good examples in Britain of JIT happening between Britain and any number of countries that are outside of the EU, mainly selected because Gordon (hubris) Brown decided not push Britain into the the fated Euro.

      Inward investment into the UK is at an all time high and that includes European (including EU) investment. We have full employment, despite the inward movement of around 200,000 new people each year for the past 20 years.

      It is the Euro part of the EU that is in significant decline.

      Regarding this nation’s treatment of non-contributing applicants, there are many examples of people with significant requirements that move here in order to get them for nothing. But more than that is the issue of how a bureaucratic system fails to collect fees from people who should pay, something which rarely happens in the world of private business. As to whether that sort of thing is of our making, you are right, it is mainly due to the socialist governments that we invariably suffer from, regardless of whether they have a blue or red rosette at election time. No matter who vote for, the government always gets in. i.e. it is a function not of the political parties, but rather of Whitehall and Brussels, aka “the deep state”. Which is the whole point of leaving the EU, first you get rid of them, and then you start on cutting the power of Whitehall, which has seriously ramped up since the first world war, before that, most people would be unlikely to ever have any dealings with the state, except perhaps when one asked a policeman for directions, or went to buy a stamp at the post office.

      Members of the EP have no ability to make law, it is merely a piece of theatre, and its most effective actor has been my friend Nigel Farage. However, ALL EU law is the product of highly secretive back room dealing and skullduggery, along with a massive helping of pork barrel activity… Not only that no EU employee can be sued or removed by anyone other than the EU itself. Try watching on Youtube, the film “Brexit, the movie”, watch Steven Woolf as he takes you down to the EP/EC shopping facility under the parliament.

      The new world order is what mandlescum described as “the post democracy” era. Obama’s words were put into his mouth (as a favour by the then British PM, Americans would never talk about a queue). Regarding industry, it was a decision made by our deep state to abandon it in favour of the knowledge economy, and the UK is amongst the top two or three on the planet at that. We basically run the world there, and the skinny folk from the back streets of Glasgow, Manchester or Birmingham, can man the call centres or serve each other hamburgers, until we can find someone cheaper in Delhi to do it.

      As far as Trump and his trade deals are concerned, he is half Scottish and Nigel is good friends with him, he is ready and willing to sign a free trade deal tomorrow, forget about lines (queues) he is not a world businessman, but he does have businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland. He is very pro-British, unlike Obama. A trade deal would happen tomorrow between the US and the UK, it hasn’t happened yet between the US and the EU after 40 years of negotiations.

      As for your point about treachery, which didn’t address mine, if you ignore a national vote after you have expressly told the voters that their decision is final, having been arguing amongst themselves for forty years, to then ignore (actually work against it) that is a fundamental failure to recognise the democratic system that this country is supposed to operate on, that is treachery… i.e. to work against your own people and in the interests of a burgeoning bureaucratic empire.

      Thatcher didn’t decline rapidly after her demise as PM, she spent another twenty years in Parliament as an MP or Peer, and made kings ransom on the public speaking circuit. She did suffer after Denis keeled over though, he gave her a lot of support. You have to remember why she was “stabbed in the back” and by whom. Remember that she had just realised that the EEC had ambitions to absorb the nation states into one unelected new world state called the EU, and she had made her famous rebuttal in the form of the Bruges speech and her reiteration of that in the HOC with her “NO, NO, NO… Then days later came the challenges and her support faded away. Within one year Maastricht happened.

      Waffer thin majority? There are 75 MP’s sitting on their fat superannuated arses in the house of commons who have majority’s of LESS than 3.8% the winning number of leave over remain. Perhaps their position is not credible and perhaps they have no legitimacy. Maybe their constituents should have a revote?

      I tell you what was illegitimate, the basis on which the treacherous Heath took Britain into the EEC. He said in his election campaign that he would ramp up his application to join the project, but that without a serious majority, he would not commit Britain to entry. Well he won a majority of 38 seats, not massive, but enough to run a government. However he went ahead and ignored the mandate that he had been given and actually joined that project. However, he could not carry HIS OWN party, since his majority for the passing of the ECA was 8, somewhere along the line, he lost 30 of his own supporters.

      Anyway, even though I am on the edge of my seat wondering whether our treacherous MP’s are actually going to do what they have repeatedly stated that they would do, via a referendum, a general election and an act of parliament, or whether they are going to ignore all that and destroy all remaining trust in the so-called democratic system that has served us since time immemorial, is probably of no interest to Tim or other Leicaphilia readers. We should perhaps agree that I am right and you are out of touch Rob and move on. There are stories of Von Overgaard to regale each other with.

      Top of the mornin’.

    1. StephenJ

      “I’ll have some of what you just had!”

      You’ve had enough already Rob…


  7. Daniel Castelli

    My mother was a portrait photographer and ran a portrait studio during WW2 in Connecticut. It’s how she met my Dad. I grew up in a home surrounded by cameras.
    From my mother, I got the encouragement to ‘just take pictures (we didn’t take photos!); from my father I gained an appreciation of tools & fine machinery (he was a master toolmaker.) I also gained from both of them a culture of hard work, doing the job right the first time, and an unshakable respect for people who use their hands & heart to create. Dirty hands were not a crime, unless you didn’t wash before eating.

  8. Rob Campbell

    From Vincent van Gogh I learned that format and high resolution don’t amount to a hill of beans. From Sandro Botticelli I learned that distortion can be cool, which is probably why so many of us during the 60s used wides to shoot half-length fashion shots, seeing the stretched heads as artistic interventions.

    I guess our clients were art lovers too… but I don’t really recall photographers writing statements other than to collect late payments.

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