Larry Sultan (American photographer, b. Brooklyn, NY 1946; d. Greenbrae, CA 2009) was raised in California’s San Fernando Valley. His work, heavily influenced by the post-war, popular culture of Los Angeles, purposefully creates an ambiguity between documentary and staged photographs, complicating the terrain of the suburban everyday.
I’ve always been interested in the theater of the home.
That’s kind of what my work is-- taking the construction of the domestic and looking at it as a theatrical subject.
- Larry Sultan
Larry Sultan working on Pictures from Home in his studio at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California,
c. 1985, photo by Philip Gefter
Unlocking Key Insights
How does your family compare to Sultan's?
What adventures of your folks have shaped your story?
Thoughts on staged vs. spontaneous photos – any preferences?
Living in a spill-it-all era, do you think we're really spilling the truth?
Delving into family photos – ever encountered unexpected emotions?
If you staged a photo with your parents, whose story would it reflect?
My father is very philosophical…there is a picture of him sitting on a bed all dressed up, and he said: “look I am really happy to help you with this work but I really want you to know that I already know that that’s you sitting on the bed, that this is a self-portrait. I know who I am, you know who you are, your values are part of this work, but let’s just make it very explicit, that is you sitting on the bed.
– Larry Sultan
Larry Sultan, with his fusion of genuine and staged photos, shook up the usual ideas about truth and authenticity in imagery. This approach raises questions about truth because the meaning of the picture relies on the photographer’s perspective rather than the subjects themselves.
What do YOU think?
Use the sliders to share your thoughts about the truth in photos
How do you think the concept of truth in photos applies to the filtered and curated images we often see on social media today?
How much do the private or unrevealed past events in your family shape your future?
Sharr White's play, Pictures from Home, explores the dilemma of keeping things private or spilling it all. What are your thoughts?