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Berman, J. Mosher, P.W. (2015). History of Psychoanalysis: Looking Through Freud's Photos. By Michael Molnar. London: Karnac Books, 2015, xxiv + 209 pp., $41.95 paperback. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(5):1053-1057.
(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(5):1053-1057
History of Psychoanalysis: Looking Through Freud's Photos. By Michael Molnar. London: Karnac Books, 2015, xxiv + 209 pp., $41.95 paperback
Review by: Jeffrey Berman
Paul W. Mosher
Despite Freud's well-known antipathy to being photographed, nearly everyone has seen the iconic portrait of him taken by his son-in-law Max Halberstadt in 1921, holding his trademark cigar. Thousands more photographs are in the Freud Museum in London, documenting the early history of psychoanalysis. These spectral photographs of a world that is at once distant from and yet uncannily familiar to our own continue to attract worldwide attention, reminding us that photography is an elegiac art, freezing the moment that is forever present and absent.
No one knows more about pictorial representations of Freud than Michael Molnar, a researcher at the Freud Museum from 1986 to 2003 and the museum's director from 2003 to his retirement in 2009. In 1992 Molnar published the indispensable The Diary of Sigmund Freud, 1929-1939: A Record of the Final Decade, which he translated and annotated. Molnar's new volume, Looking through Freud's Photos, published in the History of Psychoanalysis Series (Brett Kahr and Peter Rudnytsky, editors), offers a fascinating glimpse into Freud's world.
Molnar is uniquely qualified for the task. Not only is he a world-renowned expert on Freud's life and work, but he was also an amateur photographer in his youth. His knowledge of the early history of photography, along with the ever expanding critical commentary on photography as an art form, is no less impressive. Molnar points out that most of the photographs of Freud were snapped in one-thirtieth of a second, yet the photos may require a lifetime to understand.
Looking through Freud's Photos contains ten essays, each constituting a chapter, and each inspired by a photograph housed in the Freud Museum archives. The first four photos focus entirely on Freud, though only in the first, taken in 1897, is he alone. He is part of a group, either with relatives or colleagues, in the next three photos.
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