When I look at a portrait, I feel as if I am glimpsing into a person of the past. The subject was clearly staring at the camera, but it feels almost as if he or she were staring at me, wishing to share their story. It’s as if, as Hein said, the “image may contain the hints of otherwise unknowable mysteries of past lives that do hold meaning in present lives.” In this reading, I was constantly reminded of my own family.
This is a picture of my grandmother, mom, and grandfather — taken in 1966. My grandmother was a recent graduate of the undergraduate chemistry program and my grandfather, a recent recipient of his PhD in particle physics, both from UC Berkeley. Here, they are happily married, in love with a child. When I look at this photo, it carries secrets and stories apart from the snapshot, like the torture my grandfather’s family endured in China so he could have a better life. In a sense, this idea of portraits holding secrets reminds me of Nostalgia. Without audio, it would’ve just been photos burning. Perhaps we could project or analyze to try and figure out what was happening, but we are only truly able to see what meaning is carried because of the words, the stories, and how they impacted Frampton. For me, stories like this bring even more respect and connection to my ancestors. Knowing what those who share your DNA have done gives insight into your blood and, to some extent, yourself. Perhaps a take away from this is that in your work, it’s important to have some sort of story, be it personal or related to what you see. Then, the image can be a vessel for deeper meaning.