June 24, 2004


When I got interested in photography in the late 1980s, I would spend hours in the stacks of the college library, looking through the 779's. (Actually it was probably the LOC system, so the TR 6-somethings.) Among the books in there was Bill Owens's Suburbia, published in 1973 and since reissued via D.A.P. It fit into my just-out-of-suburban-angst mood, as it gently and not so gently poked fun at the unsuspecting fools who thought the empty cloistered life of the new suburbs out in the sunbaked foothills east of the SF Bay Area was the good life. (Each photo had a bit of real-life speech or dialogue beneath it, a mode Jim Goldberg would use to even greater effect in Rich & Poor [download the PDF at the bottom of that page, really].)

But there was this one picture that always transcended the easy irony of suburbia/Suburbia, seen above. The caption reads, "How can I worry about the damned dishes when there are children dying in Vietnam." Yes, she seems a bit vacuous, like everyone in the book. But on the other hand, Yes, how can you do the dishes when there are kids dying Vietnam?

I've been thinking about that picture a lot this past year, with kids dying in Iraq. (And my dishes are dirty, but I'm not saying they're related.) I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight and came out sad and angry and thinking, again, about the dishes.

Posted by dbrown at June 24, 2004 11:38 PM

weird to see Suburbia without the captions on Owens's site. Recently saw some great vintage color prints of his; 70s color being where it's at these days; and glad to see them sprinkled in on his site, though I'd like them even better, maybe, separated out.

Beth Yarnelle Edwards definitely a little too gussied up, though compares just fine to the others in the genre -- Tina Barney, Lauren Greenfield, Andrea Stern. All women, never thought of them that way.

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