Jan 27 2012: Colour Photograph of an Unknown Woman in a Caravan with a Portable Television (c.1970s)

I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about photographs in which televisions appear that seems so compelling: perhaps it’s the conjunction of different layers of reality inside the single frame, as everyday life can be seen coming into collision with something fantastical or other or – as here – where the woman making tea coincides with another woman singing from a hymn sheet on the small screen in the foreground. I can only assume the TV is tuned to Songs of Praise or some similar Sunday evening British TV programme of the time, and the coming together of this transmission with the caravan’s decidedly seventies interior (all brown wood-grain effect and orange formica) is added to further, on closer inspection, by the tantalising hint of a reflection in the screen of the television that promises to (but doesn’t, quite) expose the unseen figure taking the photograph, whose perspective we, as viewers of the image, share (perhaps there’s also a distant echo in the photograph’s general composition of some of Richard Hamilton’s interiors of the 1960s, as discussed here?). One thing about the presence of TV images inside otherwise everyday settings is the sense of haunting that is evoked: the monochrome set beside the colour; the feeling of something unreal manifesting inside the territory of the real; the grainy presence of the screen held within the more concrete textures of the ordinary. For an instant, here, the mundane act of making tea inside a caravan becomes entangled with another presence that is itself everyday and explicable, but carries the eerie feeling of an unnatural manifestation.

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