Photographer Joshua Lutz has published a book of his own family photographs. So what you say? Hesitating Beauty documents the slide of his mother into mental illness using family photographs.
Here’s an article at Mother Jones about the book.
The neurologist Oliver Sacks had a book I stopped buying because so many people borrowed it and never gave it back. The book is called the Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. These are case studies of people with organic brain disorders and how their malfunctioning brains threw light onto the mysterious processes inside this wonderful organ. There’s a chapter about a painter whose work became increasingly abstract. Sacks observed that this transformation was not the result of any artistic insight but the result of a disorder the artist was suffering. My mother’s hobby business was puppetry and I remember how she started off making complex and balanced marionettes with rather fine control systems. He art ‘evolved’ into increasingly primitive, ill-made stick figures.
This, too, was a form of documentation.
My favourite image from the book is visible in the gallery. You can find it at the end. It appears to be a photograph on a pin board, probably from the 1970s from the fabrics, frizzy hair and the film stock. For good or ill, I have cemented in the architecture of my mind an image of Margot Kidder, Carrie Fisher and Margaret (Mad Maggie) Trudeau as a ‘look’ from this period. Why? I guess their breakdowns in the 80s were the fodder for weekend news magazine features when I was an adolescent. Their ‘at home in happier days’ snapshots contrasted with the sensational headlines.