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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 didn’t 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 watch.

She didn’t enjoy regular children’s television shows; they were filled with unpredictable emotions, bad men, monsters and other scary images she was not ready to embrace. Instead of contemporary children’s 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 isn’t 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

She’s so motionless, with that slack-jawed stare – really quite an indictment against TV watching. I’ve 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 from…We 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.

Sofa Portraits  

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

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