I once flipped through a book of Cindy Sherman's work and was drawn to a project she did long before her Untitled Film Stills and explosion into fame. She had taken a family album and had written under every picture with her in it "this is me," "and this is me," "and this is me," and on and on. Of course, this is the refrain when anyone shows pictures of themselves to someone who hasn't seen them before-- it seems like a pretty good explanation without so many words: "this is me." Sherman's project (which, of course, I can find no documentation of on the fabulous World Wide Web--how can this be?) included imperfect family snapshots-- pictures where just her arm, cropped out of the picture frame was circled ("this is me") and pictures of teeny tiny people on faraway bleachers with one small head circled ("and this is me"). It certainly invites speculation over her identification with the images and the consistency of her narrative.
I like looking at photographs with my family because there always seems to be these absurd moments that happen-- when my youngest brother claims to remember an event that happened before he was born, when I will see myself being held as child by someone I don't recognize, where my parents can't remember the names of friends they have their arms around. Pictures, even more so before the digital era, feel oddly essential and distant to my identity. The expression"a picture is worth a thousand words" should really be "a picture confounds our words." Over and over I look at pictures for guidance, I picture how things once were, and I make pictures of pictures, too.