Snapshot Versions of Life is an important foray into the culture of photography and home life from an anthropologist’s perspective. Examining what he calls “Home Mode” photography, Richard Chalfen explores snapshots, slide shows, family albums, home movies, and home videos, uncovering what people do with their photos as well as what their personal photos do for them.
Chalfen’s “Polaroid People” are recognizable—if ironically viewed—relatives, uncles, aunts, and All-American kids. As members of “Kodak Culture” they watch home movies, take pictures of newborn babies, and even, in their darker moments, scratch out the faces of disliked relatives in group photographs. He examines who shoots these photos and why, as well as how they think (or don’t) of planning, editing, and exhibiting their shots. Chalfen’s analysis reveals the culturally structured behavior underlying seemingly spontaneous photographic activities.