┐ Contemporary housekeeping or How to stumble on a stove └

planta© Catherine & Harriet Beecher, in American Woman’s Home, 1869

bat copy© family archive

IMG_7183roxana© Erica Brejaart, Untitled, from the series Portraits of Mothers and Housewives

IMG_7112roxana© Erica Brejaart, Untitled, from the series Portraits of Mothers and Housewives

“In the Divine Word it is written, “The wise woman buildeth her house.” To be “wise,” is “to choose the best means for accomplishing the best end.” It has been shown that the best end for a woman to seek is the training of God’s children for their eternal home, by guiding them to intelligence, virtue, and true happiness. When, therefore, the wise woman seeks a home in which to exercise this ministry, she will aim to secure a house so planned that it will provide in the best manner for health, industry, and economy, those cardinal requisites of domestic enjoyment and success. To aid in this, is the object of the following drawings and descriptions, which will illustrate a style of living more conformed to the great design for which the family is instituted than that which ordinarily prevails among those classes which take the lead in forming the customs of society. The aim will be to exhibit modes of economizing labor, time, and expenses, so as to secure health, thrift, and domestic happiness to persons of limited means, in a measure rarely attained even by those who possess wealth.


At the head of this chapter is a sketch of what may be properly called a Christian house; that is, a house contrived for the express purpose of enabling every member of a family to labor with the hands for the common good, and by modes at once healthful, economical, and tasteful. Of course, much of the instruction conveyed in the following pages is chiefly applicable to the wants and habits of those living either in the country or in such suburban vicinities as give space of ground for healthful outdoor occupation in the family service, although the general principles of house—building and house—keeping are of necessity universal in their application–as true in the busy confines of the city as in the freer and purer quietude of the country. So far as circumstances can be made to yield the opportunity, it will be assumed that the family state demands some outdoor labor for all. The cultivation of flowers to ornament the table and house, of fruits and vegetables for food, of silk and cotton for clothing, and the care of horse, cow, and dairy, can be so divided that each and all of the family, some part of the day, can take exercise in the pure air, under the magnetic and healthful rays of the sun. Every head of a family should seek a soil and climate which will afford such opportunities. Railroads, enabling men toiling in cities to rear families in the country, are on this account a special blessing. So, also, is the opening of the South to free labor, where, in the pure and mild climate of the uplands, open—air labor can proceed most of the year, and women and children labor out of doors as well as within.


In the following drawings are presented modes of economizing time, labor, and expense by the close packing of conveniences. By such methods, small and economical houses can be made to secure most of the comforts and many of the refinements of large and expensive ones. The cottage at the head of this chapter is projected on a plan which can be adapted to a warm or cold climate with little change. By adding another story, it would serve a large family.


Fig. 1 shows the ground—plan of the first floor. On the inside it is forty—three feet long and twenty—five wide, excluding conservatories and front and back projections. Its inside height from floor to ceiling is ten feet. The piazzas each side of the front projection have sliding—windows to the floor, and can, by glazed sashes, be made green—houses in winter. In a warm climate, piazzas can be made at the back side also.


In the description and arrangement, the leading aim is to show how time, labor, and expense are saved, not only in the building but in furniture and its arrangement. With this aim, the ground—floor and its furniture will first be shown, then the second story and its furniture, and then the basement and its conveniences. The conservatories are appendages not necessary to housekeeping, but useful in many ways pointed out more at large in other chapters.”

Catherine & Harriet Beecher, in American Woman’s Home, 1869

║ Birthe Piontek (Domesti Scenes – part V) ║

© Birthe Piontek, Untitled, from the Terrain Vague series, 2006 

© Birthe Piontek, Untitled, from the Sub Rosa series, 2006

“Similar to numerous other photographers my first take on photography was rather journalistic. Inspired by artists like Jeff Wall, Philip Lorca DiCorcia, Anna Gaskell and the work of David Lynch my pictures became increasingly staged over the last years.

In order to tell my stories, I frequently use a combination of portraits and stills, which currently constitute the lion’s share of my work.
Two subjects have always been of great interest to me: innocence and adolescence – both of which playing major roles in my latest project Sub Rosa.
The intimate moments captured in Sub Rosa oppose the innocent vulnerability of youth to otherwise rather somber settings. We are confronted with introductions and conclusions of stories from a world we once were privy to – all the while hinting at secrets and revealing none.”

to view Birthe Piontek full body of work click here

║ Tina Barney (Domestic Scenes – part IV) ║

© Tina Barney, Marina and Peter, 1997 

© Tina Barney, Moya and the Peach, 1996 

“Tina Barney is best known for her ongoing documentation of the lifestyles and relationships of her family and close friends, many of whom belong to the social elite of New York and New England. Barney’s style is part candid, part tableau; her subject matter raises in equal measure issues of privilege and the interaction of family members. While striving for the candidness of a snapshot, Barney became one of the first artists working in the 1980s to explore a “directorial” mode of making pictures. Her decision to direct her subjects stems in part from her choice to sacrifice the nimble freedom of a 35 millimeter camera (with which she began her photographic career) for the large format camera’s ability to deliver a more detailed rendering of the trappings of wealth so integral to depicting her subjects and their environment. Her direction ranges from posing her subjects to simply asking them to repeat a spontaneous gesture, and her style of working often includes careful lighting and the help of an assistant. The effect is an unexpectedly intimate access to her subjects.”

Kendra Greene

║ Cecil Macdonald (Domestic Scenes – part III) ║

© Cecil Macdonald, Fresh Linens, 2006 

© Cecil Macdonald, Deflecting the Obvious, 2005 

“On first viewing, Cecil McDonald Jr’s images of his three daughters, his wife and himself appear to be snapshots – everyday moments caught on film. But nothing could be further from the truth, as McDonald seeks to reinvent mundane events that occur at home. Like Tina Barney and Carrie Mae Weems, McDonald’s seeks to examine his daily life by recreating situations that are both autobiographical yet universal. A young child dances to music as her sister prepares food in the kitchen; a father and daughter argue in the car; the ritual of braiding hair in the morning; a father stealing a quite moment in bed to read. All of these perceived truths are reenacted, allowing scenes of observed domesticity to be viewed as a visual object. Through these photographs, we question the reality presented and must decide, for ourselves, the truths these scenes portray.”to view Cecil Macdonald full body of work click here

║ Melissa Ann Pinney (Domestic Scenes – part II) ║

© Melissa Ann Pinney, Kanaha State Beach, Maui, 2006 

© Melissa Ann Pinney, Kihei Shower, Maui, 2006
“My photographs are grounded in attentive observation of the world. I have come to understand that such mindfulness is rewarded by pictures more authentic and more mysterious than any I might have imagined beforehand or manipulated in PhotoShop afterward. Family life , centered around my eleven year-old daughter, Emma, and my husband, Roger; Emma’s friends; and the seldom- portrayed relationship of father and daughter; is my subject. A sense of place is essential to my way of seeing.
It is easy to take the familiar for granted and tempting to look to another place or culture for a fresh and more thrilling view. The challenge of working in depth and over many years with the familiar is to find the emblematic, to see with fresh eyes that which surrounds one day to day. I remain intrigued by ritual, the qualities of light and water and the passage of time.”
Melissa Ann Pinney

║ Kelli Connell (Domestic Scenes – part I) ║

© Kelli Connell, Private Conversation, 2003
© Kelli Connell, Sunday Afternoon, 2002

“This work represents an autobiographical questioning of sexuality and gender roles that shape the identity of the self in intimate relationships. Polarities of identity such as the masculine and feminine psyche, the irrational and rational self, the exterior and interior self, the motivated and resigned self are portrayed. By combining multiple photographic negatives of the same model in each image, the dualities of the self are defined by body language and clothing worn. This work is an honest representation of the duality or multiplicity of the self in regards to decisions about intimate relationships, family, belief systems and lifestyle options.
The importance of these images lies in the representation of interior dilemmas portrayed as an external object – a photograph. Through these images the audience is presented with “constructed realities”. I am interested in not only what the subject matter says about myself, but also what the viewers’ response to these images says about their own identities and social constructs..”
Kelli Connell