An english teacher once said to me (as many english teachers have said before): “Write what you know”. But how do you ‘write what you know’ and make it relevant for others too? Most of us lead average lives. If I wrote what i knew there would be an entire chapter on bus riding, and another on youtube surfing…

Let’s take a look at these images by Larry Sultan from his series Pictures From Home :

From Larry Sultan's 'Pictures From Home' by Voyou Desoeuvre.

Practicing Golf Swing, 1986

Dad on Bed, 1985

What are these photos telling us?

These portraits are giving us a lot of information. By the titles of the series and the second photo, we can assume that this is the home that Sultan grew up in, and that the man pictured is his father. We can tell that this family is middle class, or upper-middle class, given the decor of the rooms, and given that the man owns a suit, that he plays golf. We can also observe something of the location because of the sunlight, and the spacious rooms.

Is this documentary photography?

Although the man is portrayed as himself, in his own home, the image is not merely a casual observation. Because the lighting quality of the image is so photographic, we can assume that there was set-up time involved, and a concept of what the final image would look like. These are not candid snapshots, but they do capture certain truths.

Is there a narrative?

With these photos of his father, Sultan wants to portray the frustrations and feelings of powerlessness involved with early retirement. His father was once vice president of a successful company, but now has no practical reason to wear a business suit around the house.

Larry Sultan (b. 1946) received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1973.

Here’s an interview with Larry Sultan at

Here’s more work by Sultan at Bill Charles Represents.