By Elisabetta Costa, on 10 July 2014
Anytime I become close to a family after having visited them at least a couple of times, my new friends usually show me their family photo albums. So far this has happened in every house I’ve been to. After talking, eating and drinking tea together, they ask me if I want to have a look at their family pictures. Then they usually bring me one, two or more boxes containing different albums and many scattered photos. I’ve seen many pictures taken from the ‘60 until recently. These boxes usually contain both formal photos taken during weddings and then edited in the studio, and more informal pictures from daily life. Showing family photo albums and family photos to guests is a very common practice here in Mardin. It’s a way to communicate to new friends what the family looks like, and to highlight to me (a new friend) who the family members are and were in the past.
The same habit of showing pictures to guests has continued with the diffusion of Smartphones that are regularly used, both as cameras and photo albums. On the camera phone people store images and significant memories of life and they continuously show them to friends and relatives. In face to face communications, young women and men always show images portraying friends and relatives, and the people and the events they are talking about at that given moment. Single married women and men show to close friends the pictures of their secret lovers, and married people those of their new spouse, daughters or sons. And the majority of my informants have showed me the pictures of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters on their Smartphone on their own initiative while drinking tea in a public space such as a café or a park.
The practice of showing many pictures of their dear ones to new friends was widespread with analogue photography and it continues with the camera phone. But on the camera phone, different from the previous form of photo album, individuals can show much more pictures, more often, and outside the organized space of the family and the household. Digital technologies have given people the opportunity to act individually and to store and display pictures as an individual and not necessarily as a family member. However the intensity and the frequency with which people show the pictures of their dears on their camera phones once again confirms how important here family relationships are in the creations of the self, as opposed to theories of increased individualism.