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Sofa Portraits is a series of portraits of my daughter, Isabel, watching television


  • V V books

  • Sofa Portraits Colin Pantall

  • They say that ninety percent of TV is junk. But,

    ninety per cent of everything is junk.

    Gene Roddenberry

  • Introduction

    My daughter Isabel didnt like television when she was little.

    As a baby, she sat in her high chair and saw whatever we saw; the early

    evening news mostly. She witnessed 911 and the Afghanistan war while

    eating mashed banana and sieved peas. Later, when she was old enough to

    choose programmes for herself, she was particular about what she would


    She didnt enjoy regular childrens television shows; they were filled with

    unpredictable emotions, bad men, monsters and other scary images she was

    not ready to embrace. Instead of contemporary childrens television, she

    chose videos of classics like The Clangers or Pingu. Later she watched

    movies. The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh and the first half of the Sound of

    Music (before the Nazis kick in) were her early favourites.

  • She watched those films from the sofa and retreated to the fantasy world of

    her choice. Mostly she watched when she was tired, putting her

    high-energy body on pause while her mind ran away with Totoro or Baloo.

    Mentally she was in a colourful world that was outside herself but at the

    same time safe and within her control. It was a world where she could let

    her imagination run free.

    Virginia Woolf wrote that a woman needs a room of her own a place to

    think, write and create words. In the same way, a child needs a room of her

    own, or at least a place where she can be free to be who she wants to be,

    where her day isnt regulated away into a series of lessons and organized

    activity. Isabel has never had a heavily regulated life, but within the British

    culture of education it is regulated enough. In a small way, the sofa Isabel

    watched television from was an escape from all this. It was a room of her

    own, the place where she could wear what she wanted, lie and stretch and

    sit with comfort her only thought.

  • I identify with these. Her carefree isolation seems

    refreshingly autonomous among representations of

    children anymore.

    posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:49pm on November 20, 2007

  • Shes so motionless, with that slack-jawed

    stare really quite an indictment against TV

    watching. Ive never seen pictures of a living

    kid appear so lifeless.

    I found them disturbing.

    posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:53pm on November 20 2007

  • Keep in mind that the photographs displayed

    are the ones the photographer chose to group

    together. Most likely he had hundreds to

    choose fromWe are only seeing the photographs

    that Colin Pantall wants us to see.

    posted by Sailormoon at 7:29AM on November 21, 2007

  • All pictures copyright Colin Pantall. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.