Works from WAG's Photography Collection Explore the Ways We Choose to Picture 'Family' Say Cheese!

By Cochrane, Steven Leyden | Winnipeg Free Press, January 10, 2013 | Go to article overview

Works from WAG's Photography Collection Explore the Ways We Choose to Picture 'Family' Say Cheese!


Cochrane, Steven Leyden, Winnipeg Free Press


You can't choose your family, but only in the narrowest, biological sense. Beyond some unavoidable facts of heredity, our families are pretty much whatever we choose to make of them, and there's no limit to the forms they can take or how they might evolve over time.

Even the most conventional arrangements are subject to evolution: kids grow up and parents get old, dynamics of power and responsibility shift, new partners and new babies come on the scene, relationships end, people die, people move away. Circumstances change and everybody improvises.

We renegotiate the terms of kinship at less decisive moments too, though. We do it every time we pose for a family photograph.

Tuck in your shirt! Get your hair out of your face! Smile! To some extent we're always "performing" familial roles -- the diligent parent, the devoted child, the creepy uncle. The presence of a camera only underscores the fact.

All in the Family is an engaging, wide-ranging exhibition of photographic works pulled from the WAG's permanent collection by Alex King that capably investigates the "family photograph" as an artifact, a convention, and a reflection of identity -- one that may or may not be entirely reliable.

Organized loosely around the themes of "shared experience," "home," "identity" and "care," the show introduces us to families of all kinds. George Hunter's Typical River Heights Family from 1945 looks about how you'd expect them to (two kids, a dog, and a well-appointed suburban living room), but we also encounter gay and lesbian couples, nervous newlyweds, single mothers and their children, groups of siblings, friends in a nursing home, an extended Metis family, and a woman who holds up her poodle with evident pride.

It's always valuable to be reminded that families come in all configurations, "traditional" or otherwise. The show additionally highlights the work of significant local artists and photographers, including Sheila Spence, Larry Glawson, Bill Eakin and Rosalie Favell, who offer particular insight into our own regional communities. …

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