I *heart* photograph shared this work by Nora Herting. For the series "Free Sitting," she got a job in a department store portrait studio. She explains that by breaking the rules of the studio portrait, she changes their status as social symbols. The jury is still out on her written conclusions - I like them more for her "hacking" of this genre and her mining of the layout of the commercial portrait printout. The visual design and patterning of the gestures, colors, and gazes, for me, is their strongest suit. I especially like the layouts that include "outtakes," images that the customer would not have selected.
Herting also produced a "studio performance" installation/audio piece on the same idea. Here is what she says about this work (click on the word here to hear it, I had to do it several times):
As my employment as a trade photographer wore on, I became fearless and obsessed. I made hidden microphones embedded in Santa Clause pins and flower broaches. I was striving for covert ways to reveal the odd dynamics and labored performances required to make these mundane photographs. Audio of photographic sitting between a family of four and myself was collected by hidden microphone.
Visual Studies Workshop did an exhibition on photographic backdrops a while back. Does anyone know what it was called and if it had a catalogue? I'd love to get my hands on one. Update: I just found an essay from Afterimage on the show.