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In Focus
Sultan’s My Mother Posing for Me, 1984. © Estate of Larry Sultan, photograph courtesy of the Estate of Larry Sultan.

In Focus

W's arts and culture director's 
must-see for November

Nothing has as much revisionist potential as family history. In 1982, while visiting his parents in Los Angeles, the photographer Larry Sultan watched old home movies and was astounded to discover the fantasies of family life that his parents unwittingly projected. Reversing roles, he used stills from those films and put his parents in his own photographs, making himself “a subject in the drama, rather than a witness,” as Sultan, who died in 2009, once said of the resulting series, Pictures From Home (1982–1992). “I realize that beyond the rolls of film and the few good pictures, the demands of my project and my confusion about its meaning, is the wish to take photography literally. To stop time. I want my parents to live forever.” Sultan’s images of his father in forced early retirement and his mother, a real estate agent, are accompanied by fragments of conversations about their relationship with their son and his project. “Seriously, I just wanted you to know that for the most part, that’s not me I recognize in those pictures,” his father told him, creating a disconnect between the image and its documentary truth. Fact, fiction, or a composite of the two? Discover for yourself in “Larry Sultan: Here and Home,” the first retrospective of Sultan’s work, running November 9 through March 22, 2015, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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