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  • Writer's picturecolinpantall

The Sofa

The last picture in Sofa Pictures is of the sofa itself. All the other pictures in the book are contained in that picture. The physical presence of Isabel is embedded in the contours of the sofa fabric, in the indents of the flattened uphostelry and the broken springs.

That physical presence of her body lying on that sofa is there in the same way that the physical traces of Ischiuchi Miyako’s mother are on the lipstick, the sandals, the hairbrush that she owned or the traces of the atomic bomb that are apparent in the marks and scars on the walls of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial that Kikuji Kawada photographed for his book Chizu. It’s a domestic version of Ana Mendietta’s Siluetta.

The book ends with that physical presence of the sofa and that is what the book is about; what is embedded in that sofa is what has changed from the first picture to the last, that transformation of Isabel from when she was 4, and just starting school in 2005, and 2007, when we moved out of the flat.

(line drawing by Isabel)

Throughout the book there is a transformation in her way of being, in the way she holds herself, the way she dresses, the way she thinks. That comes from growing up, from growing older, but also from school and its expectations of a child.

You can see that in the way she spreads across the sofa both physically and psychologically, the worlds that she enters. It’s a book about the shifting practice of watching television in a domestic space and by the end of the book, she has transformed herself, she is more contained, ennui has entered her world. She looks at the pictures and identifies herself as engaged in critical thinking, there is a filter to how she watches tv that wasn’t there before. She has changed, something has been gained and something lost. And what’s lost is left behind in that sofa, moulded into its upholstery visible in the contours that show where she sat, where she lay, where she slept.

Shortly after this picture was taken, we moved house and left that sofa (which came with the flat we rented) behind. The year was 2007. Isabel was 6. I don't know how old the sofa was. It's probably in landfill now.

See more of Sofa Portraits here

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