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Many of the pictures in this volume are already in the children’s family albums. To the children and their families over the years they will summon up associations, details and stories—a continuously self-revising stream of captions. We can only read the laconic literal titles here—“My daddy feeding the cows,” “My foster family on Turkey Creek,” “My mother feeding the cat,” “My sister’s baby’s funeral,” “Mamaw and the baby”—repeat the words, and point to the beauties of the photographs. But in many cases, if we take the captions away we are speechless, as if in the presence of a mystery.
For citizens of the United States, Canada is typically neither here nor there. “Canada” occupies a zone of conceptual indifference: unthought, insignificant, simultaneously the same and different, but in ways that do not seem to matter much in an “American” scheme of things. 
 
For Canadians, the United States is both here and there: insistent, present, pressing and beckoning from below. As the novelist Margaret Atwood put it recently, playing on a reassuring geopolitical cliché, Canadians peer through “the longest undefended one‐way mirror in the world.”
What should be of fundamental interest to us, therefore, in regard to representations of people, is the way these representations help to determine subjectivity itself. Representation is a fact of daily experience which concerns us all intimately. We may tend to think that we were each born into the world as a little ‘self’, as well-formed psychologically as physiologically. Psychoanalysis, however, has built up a different picture: we become what we are through our encounter, while growing up, with the myriad representations of what we may become — the various positions that society allocates to us. There is no essential self which precedes the social construction of the self through the agency of representation. 

On the surface streets, the monotony of the highway has no home. I walked from predominantly white to African American to Hispanic neighborhoods where the Spanish language was the local currency. West of the Los Angeles River, these tightly packed neighborhoods were a mix of urban and suburban. I passed just north of the intersection at Normandie and Florence, the site of riots in 1992; two decades later, the external wounds were invisible in the neighborhood.

For the most part, the photographs are staged, often very elaborately (there are occasional candid photographs). This is especially true for the photographs that regularly make it on to the covers of Vanity Fair or Vogue. They are in colour, somewhat desaturated, typically each with a very specific overall tone. They resemble what we have come to expect from Hollywood movies or TV productions, which often use an overall blueish or greenish atmosphere. As a consequence of these colour choices, skin tones are, for the most part, very far from what real skin looks like. The photograph’s heavy artifice is apparent.