Feb 25 2012: Tinted Portrait of an Eccentric Family with a Small Dog (Date and location unknown, c.1960s)

I’m not sure what the context for this strange photograph actually is, except that it appears to show two or possibly three generations of a family and their dog at some point during the 1960s or 1970s. The appearance of the group seems modelled on a publicity shot for a sitcom, emphasising their quirks and eccentricities, but is an actual photograph, hand tinted in a card mount of the kind wedding pictures are presented in, so it doesn’t seem to be the publicity shot for an obscure post-Beverley Hillbillies or Munsters era American TV show it looks like it might be. The feel created here is of a bunch of people happy in their peculiarities, and their collective gaze appears to challenge the viewer to patronise them, or find them amusing in some way: do they care? It doesn’t look like they do. Besides, the norms of the sitcom family that seem to be upended here are themselves something of a tradition, with shows like The Addams Family (whose central couple, Morticia and Gomez, display one of the healthiest and most sexually contented relationships in the annals of popular television) and The Munsters built on the normalizing contrast between the Eisenhower period’s conformist mainstream values and the atypical contexts in which the norms of family life were played out. That this photograph suggests the similarities may be entirely coincidental, or might have been something devised by the subjects with the studio photographer, I suppose that’s something we’ll never know for sure one way or another.


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