Evidence of Love: Photographs of Our Birthday Cakes

KayLynn Deveney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


My chapter for The Photograph and The Collection: Creation, Preservation, Presentation reflects on the role of the birthday cake within the family photo album.The photograph of the cake served at a family party has an important role in securing some of the myths of the Western family album. But what sets the photo of the cake apart from any other photo in the family album? The answer is this: Cake photographs look like classic crime scene photographs, like evidence. Consider - cake photographs tend to employ a hallmark use of harsh flash due to the proximity to the subject. Cakes are generally photographed unemotionally, matter-of-factly. And, like a photograph of a bullet, wound or bruise, the cake photograph does not speak to the scene at large but rather to a detail, an isolated but meaningful titbit. In the photograph of the birthday cake we find the smoking gun of family love. If we are interested in promoting an image of our happy family it makes perfect sense that we photograph our cakes and present them as evidence within our family albums. This frosting-covered icon, for better or worse, denotes the fact that we love and are loved. (The chapter is part visual essay and part critical essay and makes use of photographs from my own family’s albums.)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Photograph and the Collection: Creation, Preservation, Presentation
EditorsGraeme Farnell
Place of PublicationEdinburgh, Scotland, UK and Boston, Massachusettes, USA
ISBN (Print)978-1-907697-50-0 [paperback] | 978-1-907697-51-7 [hardback]
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

This research constitutes one chapter in a book that is a volume in the series "Writings on Photography" published by MuseumsEtc.

The following is taken from the publisher's website. 'About the book - The scope of The Photograph and The Collection is extensive, ranging from the creation and preservation of new digital collections, through the conservation of historic collections, to the analysis and understanding of individual collections large and small - from the thousands of images in major public collections, to the individual photographic album containing a dozen images.

The distinguished range of international contributors - which includes curators, archivists, librarians, academics, researchers and photographers - present a rich variety of perspectives which help illuminate the wide and complex range of issues involved.

The book will be of value to both curators and conservators of art and historical collections of images; and to archivists, librarians and others with a responsibility for, or interest in, photographic collections, both historic and contemporary.'


  • Cake
  • Party
  • Family Photography
  • Album
  • Forensic Photography


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