Saturday, June 16, 2012

WSJ - Family Photo Etiquette

Scott Frances/OTTO

 THE HOME HAS LONG BEEN a place in which to display images of the self. Whether it is a pedigreed oil painting of the family (in the best of cases, a Sargent) or a plucky image of oneself (perhaps a Warhol, but probably not a Freud), people love to keep representations of their relatives near at hand. Having grown up surrounded by a million family photos, and now preferring more restrained displays, I have experienced both sides of the personal-photo-exhibiting spectrum.

Family photos are best kept small—maybe no greater than 8 by 10 inches for the biggest ones—and in the spaces most used by said family. I always encourage people to put their favorite photos in the master bedroom. When I fall asleep at night, I turn away from gazing at my husband beside me to gaze upon the faces of our children, in plain silver frames on our bedside table (that is, unless one of the three of them has decided to invade our bed, in which case I am gazing at their faces from far too close up). Intimate images seem to call for an intimate setting.

For posed family photographs, I usually look to private family hallways as the canvas upon which to create a composition. Too formal a photo feels uncomfortable in a bedroom, so hallways seem just the thing. In addition, they allow you to grow your collection on either side. Gone, I feel, are the days of hundreds of photos placed on the top of a piano. Instead, if one has a surplus of photos, they should be placed in scrapbooks, which are themselves beautiful objects that will give joy to their owners.

Until one finds the time to place them, though, family snapshots can be kept where almost all photos really dwell in this era: on a phone, in your pocket.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D5
A version of this article appeared June 16, 2012, on page D5 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Family Photo Etiquette.

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