Feb 4 2012: The Leisure Society: Twenty-One Monochrome Images of a Young Couple’s Time Off (1970)

This selection of monochrome snapshots showing a young couple at leisure around 1970 is fascinating for many reasons, some social and economic, some more personally and humanly appealing. In the latter category, the mere fact that they and their friends seem to project a sense of happiness in one another’s company is striking, and while it’s often noted that nearly all family albums insist on smiles and best behaviour, editing out the dull or bad times, the sense of unforced pleasure seen in these pictures is actually quite difficult to fake: anyone who has ever posed for an awkward photograph at some family gathering, or browsed through enough of other people’s self-documentation to sense the disconnections between the often unsmiling eyes and the outwardly beaming faces will know this already. Here, though, whether larking about on a beach, putting a dog into a party dress or repairing a car in a domestic garage, the unidentified couple are resolutely at ease with themselves and the places they visit in ways that give the photographs an unusually joyous air. The selection here is the first of three from a wider album, bringing all the black and white pictures together: over the next two days, we’ll look at other sections of their 1970 album, whose images are even more strikingly affirmative when the glow of summer light and bleached colour is added to them.

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