Have an Excellent Christmas

The other day I came across a reference (I think it was in the Guardian) to art critic, etc John Berger´s BBC series "Ways of seeing" from 1972. All the episodes are on youtube and it was two well spent hours, though I confess I did skip most of the episode two feminist discussion about the male gaze. I understand the text that this series is based on is still used for educational purposes. What Berger pointed out, among other things, and that I hadn´t really thought of like that, is how the history of the photograph and the culture of photography is very much linked to advertising, which is about depicting what is desirable. Or, as Berger puts it, glamorous.

I remember a kid I know, who a few years back, when I asked him to pose for my camera, immediately started behaving like a fashion or glamour model. It was a bit eerie, he would have been six or seven, but telling, I think, of the photographic culture that he had grown up in. And don´t we all, really, attempt to make ourselves, our home, and our lives look just a little bit extra charming, enviable, and desirable for photos? Most of us probably don´t even feel particularly weird about the idea that we are selling ourselves to the world, even to those we call friends and family.

Yesterday we visited five supermarkets in our search for everything we need to make a perfect Christmas for our closest family. We try to make it simple and traditional, but it seems we have rather particular demands on certain things, like the brand, type, and weight of the ham. As we stood in one check-out line after another, I saw many women´s faces marked by stress and anxiety, whimpering kids, and grumpy grandpas. And it occured to me that Christmas has also become glamourized. Even if we don´t buy magazines, most of the supermarket chains send their own versions to all registered bonus point-collecting customers, and the newspapers all have lifestyle supplements. There is no getting away from it. 

The only way I can think of to resist, is to be aware. I am reading Brooks Jensen again, and in my notebook I have written "What is my definition of excellence?". He is writing about photographic projects of course, but it´s a good question to ask oneself concerning most endeavours, I think. What is my definition of an excellent Christmas? What is yours?

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