Photographers Defining the "American Family"

From the 19th century to today, the concept of 'family' has changed over time -- from families born into ones, to the ones we have chosen for ourselves. Photographers then and now have found the basic unit of society an interesting, continuous study.

Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, NYC, 1991 Nan Goldin (American, born in 1953) Photograph, Cibachrome print * Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography © Nan Goldin * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Yazoo City, Mississippi, 1979 Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947) Photograph, gelatin silver contact print * Museum purchase with funds donated by the National Endowment for the Arts and Richard L. Menschel, Bela T. Kalman, Judge and Mrs. Matthew Brown, Mildred S. Lee, and Barbara M. Marshall © Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Migrant Family, Texas, 1936 Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965) Photograph, gelatin silver print * Sophie M. Friedman Fund * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nayla, Ted, Alexandra, Nick, March 30, 1995, 1995 Elsa Dorfman (American, born in 1937) Photograph, Polaroid polacolor * Gift of Elsa Dorfman in memory of Dorothy Glaser © Elsa Dorfman, 2013, all rights reserved * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In today's context, the term 'family' is more complex than now. As more domestic issues arise, mere blood-relations no longer become the defining aspect of familial relations. Compared to more conservative times, the concept of family today is broader, sometimes providing alternative structures. The tradition, as it goes, is the father is the worker and provider of the family; the mother who handles the children and the domestic affairs, in some traditional families come the concept of the 'heir and the spare'.

The varying range of family relations is a spectacular one in America -- affluent and destitute, expect and unexpected, cohesive and fractured. Divorce single parenting, friends-as-family come into the discussion. Such broad topics were touched by Nan Goldin, Carrie Mae Weems, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Harry Callahan.

Visit the display in (Un)expected Families at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, running through June 17, 2018.

Thanksgiving, 1992 Tina Barney (American, born in 1945) Photograph, chromogenic print * Contemporary Curator’s Fund, including funds donated by Barbara and Thomas Lee © Tina Barney * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Untitled (Hidden Mother), c. 1860s-70s Artist Unidentified Photograph, hand-colored tintype * Collection of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez, Jr., Shelbyville, Indiana * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; She is a Tree of Life to Them, 1950 Consuelo Kanaga (American, 1894–1978) Photograph, gelatin silver print * Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hutterite Classroom, Gildford, MT, 2005 Christopher Churchill (American, born in 1977) Photograph, gelatin silver print * Gift of Elisa Fredrickson * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Mum in her bathtub, Washington, D.C., 2002 Sage Sohier (American, born in 1954) Photograph, inkjet print Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Living New England Artists Purchase Fund, created by the Stephen and Sybil Stone Foundation Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Images are from the press kit

2017-12-14 #news #family #documentary-photography #photography-history

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