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Spectacle, Uncanny, and Everyday Life in Domestic Interior Photography 

Korrakot Lordkam

From the beginning, one primary impression of architectural photography is the absence of humans. The representation of architecture in photography in the early periods and arguably until today then notably tends to reflect architecture's flawless condition, namely without defilement, weathering, or chaotic crowd. The home, regardless of the dweller's history and traces of life, likewise ordinarily represented its perfect situation, no different than other classes of building. However, whilst the home, in reality, barely holds its excellence consistently considering its everyday life usage, its representation tends to imply ideals and moralities of domestic space through the absolute and permanent condition of images in photography. 

In this essay, my main purpose is to question the construction of the idealistic representation of domestic space in photography. I found the works of Soopakorn Srisakul, an architectural photographer who mainly works for design and home decoration media in Bangkok, Thailand, prominent in expressing everyday life scenes and objects through domestic interior photography. One of his works, the photographs of Phra Pra Daeng House, a residential project designed by All (Zone) situated in Samut Prakan province not far from the capital Bangkok, are outstanding as an example of such an everyday life inclusive strategy. Exercising equipment, house cleaning supplies, child's toys, and other familiar household objects are explicitly displayed in the photographs to the extent that they sometimes even seem hostile to the scene. 

The vitality of everyday life objects in Soopakorn's photographs leads me to an art discourse that regards trivial and mundane incidents. Still life paintings, analysed by Norman Bryson, is an art that depicts and represents matters that do not associate with anything noble [1], neglect the presence of humans2, as well as evaluate the total autonomy of objects.3 In addition, paintings that depict the rhyparos, the waste or filth subjects that were commonly seen in genre paintings, are also prominent in the study. Both discourses help to comprehend the explicit eerie senses in Soopakorn's photographs that result from the depiction of real-life situations that are commonly avoided in conventional domestic photography. Namely, Soopakorn leaves the found household objects where they were, snaps random moments of the domestic incidents, and evaluates these materials as the primary source of his images. Undoubtedly, most residential photographs for publicity purposes do not conform with the real-life situation as much as Soopakorn’s, as they are generally staged carefully and beautifully to represent the preferable conditions of the houses, to the extent that many times extract the houses out of space and time. In other words, through the conventional representation, the home is represented as a rigid, secure, and stable place. Soopakorn's work, interestingly, represents the home in an unstable manner. The home becomes uncertain in its protected territory, as it is revealed its latent impression of everyday life, weathering, and others obscured incidents that were overlooked and considered pathological by most conventions of domestic interior photography. 

I consider that the discovered sense can be aligned with Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic term: the uncanny. According to Freud, the uncanny is the sense that relates to fear regarding the dreadful encounter of the return of something familiar but in an unexpected or unfamiliar form.4 In other words, the uncanny sense is the result of the involuntary occurrence of something that seems usual or recognisable, but such things hold a peculiar or estranged condition which could cause distressed or uncomfortable feelings, such as an encounter with an image of a ruined stage of a once dream home, which is not preferable or expected to be seen.5 Therefore, the vitality of everyday life incidents that considerably alienate from the aloof architectural space in Soopakorn's photographs relate to what Freud defined as things that demand to be hidden and repressed but have returned and come to presence.6 The uncanny, an uncomfortable sense resulting from such an uncommon approach, has the capability to reveal mundane and pathological phenomena of domestic space that have been disregarded along the way of the construction of domestic space representation, which mostly represented perfectness or moral virtue. 

In her analysis of contemporary documentary photographs regarding the peculiarity of modernity in home and everyday life environment, Joanna Lowry writes: 

‘These odd spaces created by our security and safety services – services that are central to the operations of the nation state – are the ultimate uncanny spaces. Places that should be safe for us and that should be familiar – our homes, the street outside our door – are exposed in these photographs as nothing other than training grounds for catastrophe.’7 

The sense of the uncanny, as being discussed, I believe, is an uncommon sense that conventional architectural photography would rarely choose to pursue. The sense, as Lowry suggests, has the potential to reflect the fragility of social norms and conventions that the modern world has created. Here, I suggest that conventional architectural photography, especially ones that concern the domestic interior space, aligns with such fragility when they construct themselves with some rigid values. In other words, the construction of domestic interior space through photography that commonly disregards the mundane, intimate, and delicate aspects of life undeniably screened and concealed fragile social ideologies, existing latently within the order of the architecture of photography. 

[1] Norman Bryson, ‘Rhopography’, in Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), 87. 

[2] Bryson, ‘Rhopography’, 60.  

[3] Norman Bryson, ‘Still Life and ‘Feminine’ Space’, in Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), 142. 


[4] Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in The Monster Theory Reader (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020), 60. 

[5] Joanna Lowry, ‘An Imaginary Place’, in Theatres of the Real (Brighton: Photoworks, 2009), 82.

[6] Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, 63.

[7] Lowry, ‘An Imaginary Place’, 84. 

Figure 1. Photograph of Phra Pra Daeng House in Samut Prakan, Thailand, 2018, by Soopakorn Srisakul. The image shows a central ventilation void as a substantial architectural element peculiarly presented with a hanging cloth and household cleaning equipment. Photograph courtesy of Soopakorn Srisakul. 

T_Lordkam, Korrakot_Fig. 1.jpg
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