Under My Skin and Walking in the Shade, the two volumes of Doris Lessing’s autobiography, contain photographs from the author’s collection. The images, about thirty in each of the books, may be viewed as her family albums, which she inspects in the acts of remembering and reinterpreting the past. In retrospect, Lessing sees her crucial life-choices and her artistic, intellectual and political positions as shaped both by major historical processes occurring during her life-time (colonialism, the world wars, Communism) and by her ambivalent emotional attitudes to her immediate environment (her family and personal relationships). Whereas individual photographs, which accord with middle class aesthetics and ethics (Bourdieu), communicate stories of family integration, the memoirs challenge such an interpretation of the images and reflect the author’s striving to liberate herself from her family and the values they cultivated.
This paper seeks to explore Lessing’s articulations and visualizations of her multiple identities, her relatedness to her significant others and her use of photographs as a narrative strategy and as a means of interrogating her cultural situatedness.