Looking Through Freud's Photos

Author(s) : Michael Molnar

Looking Through Freud's Photos

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : November 2014
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 240
  • Category :
    Culture and Psychoanalysis
  • Category 2 :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 33952
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782200048
  • ISBN 10 : 1782200045
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A moody Freud posed against a background of holiday pictures pinned to a wall; or lurking at the very edge of a large family group; or lost in a crowd of nineteenth-century scientists. These snapshots or posed portraits not only tell stories, they also carry a specific emotional charge. The earlier essays in this book follow traces of Freud’s early years through the evidence of such album photographs; the later essays use them to reconstruct the stories of various family members.

An unknown photo of his half-brother Emanuel initiates an investigation into the Manchester Freuds. An identity photo of his daughter Anna, and the document to which it is attached, throw light on the critical final days of her trip to England in 1914. A faded idyllic print of children playing evolves into a discussion of Ernst Freud’s luck and childhood. The suicide of Anna’s artist cousin, Tom Seidmann Freud, emerges from a snap of her infant daughter Angela. The story of Oliver Freud’s life and his relationship to his father are extrapolated from a passport photo that bears witness to his narrow escape from Vichy France in 1942. A haunting image of his infant daughter Eva brings her tragically short life into focus.

Drawing on many years of work in the photo archives at the London Freud Museum, this fascinating and unfamiliar slant on neglected episodes and little-known members of the Freud family restores the density of lived experience to the historical picture.

Reviews and Endorsements

Read a review of this title in 'The best psychology books of 2014'

‘Michael Molnar’s peek through Freud’s photo album is a look into the historic heart of psychoanalysis. Molnar is the most sophisticated historian of the visual world of psychoanalysis and this book is his masterpiece. Each chapter allows us to look at an image from the world that shaped Freud and permits us insights into the man, the profession, and the complex history of our modern world. An important book for all who have wondered about what that old photograph they found in their grandmother’s drawer really meant.’
— Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

‘Photographs notoriously have far more “information” in them as measured by bytes and pixels than words; yet it is notoriously difficult to “say” exactly what they reveal to us. Michael Molnar shows us how understanding can be achieved in words. He has taken seemingly slight, nearly always close to incomprehensible, images from the family archive of an incontestably but controversially famous man and performed a magic meditation upon them. Historical, biographical, literary, existential, even, at times, psychoanalytic, these essays are little jewels of understanding of images of past lives both illustrious and commonplace, caught as they slide into oblivion. Read an essay, take another look at the photograph: and you will know the vault of understanding Molnar has opened up for you.’
— John Forrester, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge; editor of Psychoanalysis and History

‘Michael Molnar brings his long experience in the archives of the Freud Museum to fruition in this remarkable collection of essays. Visual culture and the historiography of psychoanalysis merge here in a psychoanalytically informed reading of a variety of photographs, their captions, and their historical circumstances. Not a biography of Sigmund Freud but rather a selective visual history of the Freud family from 1894 to 1943; each chapter of this fascinating study is dedicated to a single archived image. These pictures are received, unpacked, and addressed with the intellectual acuity and human sympathy of one of the most insightful scholars of Freud and his times.’
— Mary Bergstein, Rhode Island School of Design

‘Freud in his early forties standing at a window; an identity photograph of sad, young Anna Freud: snapshots of the past that seem to reflect solid reality while, on closer examination, they reveal an abyss of factual questions, historical ramifications, and methodological uncertainties. Michael Molnar does not try to fathom them, but he makes us aware of them. His essays are splendidly written, full of scholarship and profound reflection. Whoever is interested in Freud’s life, and particularly those who believe they know all about it, will find them a most rewarding read.’
— Michael Schröter, editor of Luzifer-Amor: Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Psychoanalyse

About the Author(s)

Michael Molnar was employed as a researcher at the Freud Museum in London from 1986 to 2003, and as a Director from 2003 to 2009. He translated and annotated Freud's 1930s diary notes, published as The Diary of Sigmund Freud 1929-39. He has also published numerous contributions to the history of psychoanalysis in Luzifer-Amor, Psychoanalysis and History, and elsewhere.

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