At play with the meaning of things

Still life with hibiscus -- or afternoon tea with a good book. Close-up shot of tea cup, plate with biscuits, book and single hibiscus.  Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Still life with hibiscus — or afternoon tea with a good book. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

The Making of Home, by Judith Flanders (pictured above) is my go-to book at the moment; something to be savoured and digested carefully in small, thoughtful bites.

It’s a social historical account of how the mythology of “home” has been constructed over the last few centuries, and of how that has changed everything from the placement of furniture to the value of women’s work. To quote the Financial Times’ review:

In The Making of Home, Judith Flanders has many interesting, and sometimes startling, things to say about what domesticity means to us, how that meaning has changed โ€“ and how it has endured. As she points out, nostalgia is the presiding spirit in the age of consumerism and has been so since the 18th century. Suburban homes across the developed world represent a longing for an imaginary pre-industrial age. These dreams are of course fantasies: until very recently, most homes were hovels carrying no deeper meaning for their inhabitants than shelter and survival. Few people, even two centuries ago, had more than one chair, let alone chairs sufficient for the contented family meal at the simple cottage table that is so integral to the northern European ideal. — Financial Times, October 11, 2014

In the Introduction, Flanders sets out to show how our notions of what “home” means are shaped by cultural representations. She examines Dutch 17th century paintings of domestic scenes — which have come to be regarded as “the very epitome of homeness” — yet bear little resemblance to actual Dutch houses of the time. This point is reinforced in a recent BBC Culture article “Why Vermeer’s paintings are less real than we think.”

These days, I measure the quality of a book partly by how many creative ideas it inspires in me. The Making of Home is scoring highly here; beginning with the little still life above. Simple capture of a peaceful moment? Or highly constructed ironic comment on hegemonic representations of domesticity?

This digression into the sociology of home was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

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31 thoughts on “At play with the meaning of things

  1. Su, your combination of sweetly nostalgic image and insightful words are a feast for my morning. I also am turning more and more to the gems of everyday life: cooking, gardening, reading, photography–all inspire a deeper pondering of the inner and outer life. Your image is that blend of hope and stepping back from the world order and disorder. Happy Photo Challenge.

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    • Thanks Sally. One of the points the book makes is that home was once the place where work took place, and all work was valued. Something that has been lost in modern society, but that so many of us feel compelled to try and restore.

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  2. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Challenger’s Choice (Portrait of Orchids) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  3. Oooh fascinating question, “Simple capture of a peaceful moment? Or highly constructed ironic comment on hegemonic representations of domesticity?” Sounds like a good book. Beautiful shot, even if it might possibly have been a wee bit contrived. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a fascinating book that will be added to my reading list right away! I’ve read some interesting bits on the emergence of consumerism and how it grew out of targeting women and the domestic space, and explorations of the notion of home are always interesting, so am looking forward to this read.

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    • Thanks Kate. I hope you’ll enjoy the book. I found it really well-written and full of interesting stuff that I kind of half-knew, but had never thought too much about, and never put in any real context.

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  5. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a fascinating book that will be added to my reading list right away! I found it really well-written and full of interesting stuff that I kind of half-knew, but had never thought too much about, and never put in any real context.

    Liked by 1 person

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