Why does Dee photograph the house in "Everyday Use"?

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In "Everyday Use," Dee takes pictures of the house because she wants to have material proof of her "heritage." She isn't interested in the stories or the traditions of her family so much as she's interested in physical evidence of her humble origins. In addition to the pictures, Dee takes items that her mother and sister still use daily so that she can do something artistic with them. To her, heritage is in the objects rather than the memories.

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Dee takes pictures of the house because she seems to want to prove, or to have some evidence of, her humble beginnings. Dee has suddenly become very desirous of having mementos of her family and things that are connected to her heritage. However, she seems much more concerned with the things themselves—the photographs she takes of the house, the dasher and the churn top, and the quilts—than she does with actually learning about her family's history or traditions.

It is Maggie who knows how to quilt, and she can make more quilts when the ones Mama's been saving for her eventually fall apart. It is Maggie who knows all of the family stories connected to the material items that Dee cares about so much. Maggie knows that she can remember her grandmother without the quilts, but Dee doesn't seem concerned about remembering anything or anyone. She just wants the quilts to hang on her wall and the churn top and dasher to do something "artistic" with. The pictures Dee takes of the house—and the fact that she does this even before she kisses her mother—help to convey the idea that her concept of heritage is a bit shallow compared to her sister's or her mother's.

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Maggie and her mother use family heirlooms for their practical purposes as well as the for the connection they feel to their ancestors. Dee (Wangero), on the other hand, wants some of these items for purely aesthetic purposes. Dee might actually think she is paying homage to her ancestors in this way, but her intent to display these items as cultural artifacts seems quite superficial. When she asks for the butter churn, she intends to use it as a centerpiece rather than as a tool for making butter. And, of course, Dee wants the quilts for display purposes as well. She wants to display her family's heritage like an explorer who has returned with items from a more "primitive" culture, showing these items like trophies. There is something superficial and even mocking in this gesture.

When Dee emerges from the car and starts taking pictures, she is doing the same thing. She wants to document her family's quaint, primitive way of life to show the pictures to her more "modernized" friends. Dee is not wrong for being progressive, but she clearly misses the point of the real value of something like a family quilt or their way of life. The quilt represents family connection. The different pieces are sown together. Maggie would use the quilt as a bed cover, every day, literally and figuratively connecting her to her ancestors. Dee doesn't get this. She would rather take a picture of it.

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Why does Dee take so many pictures?

In some respects, Dee takes so many pictures as a way to reflect her fundamental disconnect with her home.  Dee detests her home.  Such a sentiment caused her to leave in the first place.  When she arrives at the house, she does not approach it as a homecoming.  Rather, she approaches it as a tourist, in an almost kitsch type of demeanor:

Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house.

Dee takes pictures as a way to communicate the disconnect from her mother and sister.  This is heightened with her name change.  The sense of awkwardness is communicated by her taking of so many pictures upon arriving.  

Another reason why Dee takes so many pictures is to collect items for her cultural reclamation project.  This sentiment is why she wants the butter churn as well as the quilts.  Dee's photographs are reflective of her desire to collect objects or possessions that reflect cultural identity.  Interestingly enough, Dee views cultural identity in a general and broad sense.  Dee still reflects a level of disconnect with the immediate culture of her mother, sister, and her home background.  Dee is more concerned with fulfilling the particular expectations of cultural expression.  Her initial pictures reflect this.  Dee's understanding of cultural identity is a way to create distance between the intimate culture of her background that she has never been able to appropriate.  Taking possessions and pictures of it is the closest she can get to it.

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