Art and Photography
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGoing Into TownGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts

Related Topics
51 MonthsReview - 51 Months
by Carrie Levy
Trolley, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
May 30th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 22)

Carrie Levy is a young photographer whose book 51 Months documents the period that her father Glenn went to jail and was then released.  She was just 16 years old when he started his sentence in 1996, so she was 20 when he returned to the family.  Her photographs show her mother and younger brother in the family home, with some images of visits to the Allenwood Federal Prison Camp.  There is little accompanying text, but from the short pieces by Carrie Levy and Glenn Levy, it seems that the family had to move to a new house once Glenn was imprisoned, and from the pictures, it looks like their house was near railroad tracks. 

Many of the pictures show the back yard of the house, most of them taken from inside.  The yard is rather bare, with a tree at the end.  Levy shows it in the fall, when there is condensation on the window, in the winter when snow is falling, and at nighttime when the snow is just illuminated by a streetlight.  She also shows the kitchen sink, at first full of dirty plates and dishes, and later on empty and cleaner, and this conveys a sense of Levy's mother starting to get control of her new situation.  Several melancholy images show her mother looking somber, staring into space or preoccupied with looking after the house.  Her little brother also looks serious and often sad, especially on their trip to see their father in jail.  But things start to pick up and some family occasions look more cheerful with more people filling the house. 

About the last third of the book is devoted to Glenn Levy's return home.  He has an emotional hug with his young son, and he looks a little dazed sitting around the house.  He is greeted by family and friends, and he looks so pleased to be reunited with them.  He gradually comes to feel more comfortable in his new house and his very different circumstances.  The final image shows him dressed in a smart shirt and pressed slacks, standing in front of a cheesy picture of palm trees and a sandy beach, smiling but with his hands in his pockets, still rather disengaged from reality but with hopes for the future.

This is unusual documentary photography because of its subject matter, and it is interesting because of that.  However, it is often hard to tell exactly what is being shown, and the pictures themselves are not so striking.  Many of them seem rather ordinary images of family life, and they gain their power from the story they show.  The photographs of the backyard are quite interesting because of the way show the passage  of time, and they bring to mind the feeling of staring out of the window, but they are not frames in particularly interesting ways.  Photographs of Levy's little brother making a snow angel are underwhelming, as are those of the family lying around in or on a bed.  They document a sense of lethargy, but do not do much more than convey information that the family spent time lying around doing nothing.  The pictures would have had more emotional impact if there was more explanation of what they depicted: when they were taken, who they showed, what the occasion was.  The book feels more like a personal document than a more general comment on the experience of the family.  Looking through the pictures is like looking through someone else's photograph album that show a difficult time in her life.  Indeed, we get little sense of Levy's own feelings, since she does not appear in the pictures, and her images do not reveal much about herself.  One would expect to see similar sorts of pictures if a stranger was brought into the family to document this period of their lives.  So on the whole the book is a little disappointing.  Still, 51 Months does convey some of the emotions that a family will experience when the father is imprisoned and then returns, and as such it is distinctive and striking. 

There is a reading of the book that makes it more interesting, but it is not clear how much that is part of Levy's intent, because it is does not reflect so well on the family.  This stems from the anonymity of the house depicted on the cover and shown in the pictures.  The book is drab largely because of the drabness of the house and its featureless yard.  Even her brother's snow angel is drab.  The boring blue of the carpet in his bedroom, and the ugly gray walls are unappealing, and he and his mother sit on the floor playing with his hamster but remain bored.  Her tubby little brother sits on a large basketball beanie chair in a basketball shirt, playing a video game and he still looks bored.  Even when the extended family gathers together in the house, with its generic wooden kitchen closets, and sits around a table eating KFC bucket meals and drinking diet coke, they look bored.  The family hardly interacts with each other at all.  Once Glenn gets past the initial fear and euphoria of returning home, he sits around looking bored.  So one can see the book not so much as a documentary of a family's experience when the father goes to prison, but more as a comment on the bleak featureless existence of modern American life, which might not be so different from prison.  I prefer such an interpretation, but it seems unlikely that Levy would endorse it. 

 

Links:

 

© 2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7900 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716