Larry Sultan (1946-2009)


‘My Mother Posing for Me’, 1984; Larry Sultan’s parents were the subject of his ‘Pictures from Home’ series, first published in 1992. Sultan was moved to begin the project after his father, Irving, was forced into early retirement from his career with the Schick Safety Razor Company

Larry Sultan: The king of colour photography
Uncanny and tender, Larry Sultan’s work captures suburban West Coast America – from the green lawns of Palm Springs to San Fernando Valley’s porn-film industry

By Michael Collins
Saturday, 7 August 2010

Photography tends to deliver an exaggerated account, revealing the familiar with an unfamiliar and unsettling degree of detail – like the experience of listening to a recording of your own voice. When the late American photographer Larry Sultan made a series of pictures of his parents in their home, he was presented not only with the distortions made through the camera lens, but by his lens onto their life, too.

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4 thoughts on “Larry Sultan (1946-2009)

  1. I must say, I enjoy this image (‘My Mother Posing for Me’); the composition is superb. And I appreciate the pop of color the background bring to the overall photographic image. However, the title of the photograph is curious. Both, what I assume to be, Sultan’s father and mother make an appearance in the image; yet Sultan only mentions his mother in the title. And while, yes, the mother is clearly posing, the choice to leave the father in the image is clearly deliberate. I love that the television is on, tuned in to baseball. I love this detail, not due to a love for baseball, but because I think many men from this era related to their fathers’ only through the association of sports. Only being able to be emotionally intimate through sporting events might bring about a bit of a wall when concerning intimacy. Going back to Sultan’s exclusion of any mention of his father in the title: the father’s back to the audience (unavailable), watching t.v. (sports as a form of intimacy among fathers’ and sons’). I think the curtain on the right-hand side of the photo brings a certain geometric softness to the character of the mother, and echoes the forms in her pants. I sway back and forth over whether the electric plug and cord tailing from it are distracting or balancing to the image.

  2. I feel as though the television set itself takes away from the photograph and that the plug is entirely accidental, even though it too distorts the quality of the image. What I mean by this is that the mother’s silk shirt, the father’s white hair, and the white curtain all seem to shine and give the photograph a glowing appeal. The image itself seems like a time capsule to this period. The television, the introduction of technology into the image, rips open the time capsule and filters in the contemporary. Even though the television set itself is quite old and rustic in make, it really takes away from the beauty of the color scheme the rest of the image establishes.
    At first I thought that the placement of the father into the image was also distracting and rather awkward. However, after studying it over a few times I actually enjoy his presence and think that he offers much to the photograph. His back is to the viewer so the title still applies (‘My Mother Posing for Me’) and he doesn’t actually take focus away from her because of this fact. Therefore, he is a welcomed addition to the image for he too plays in on the time capsule appeal of the photograph. The description also mentions that this photo belongs to a series of images of the photographer’s parents, so having both mother and father present pays tribute to the trend.

  3. I think the composition in this image is very successful. Creating good compositions in houses is often hard because of clutter or the amount of furniture or extraneous objects, but Sultan successfully includes what is needed and excludes what is not. The colors are also very effective. I think the position of both his parents allude to his relationship with them. Overall very successful image n composition, color, and concept.

  4. This photograph screams “family” at me because they look like my grandparents. I love the fact that the old man is watching sports on TV while grandma probably spent half the day getting ready for the photograph. It makes me think of family photographs and how the guys could care less about pictures. I think Larry Sultan captured an important aspect of family that’s not usually captured.

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