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ROM’s “The Family Camera” exhibition examines the connection between migration and family photography: May 6 to October 29, 2017

Barbara with her kids Naina and Arjun, and grandma (daddi) Indira, who is visiting from India. Anil Dewan, Niagara Falls. Dye coupler print, August 1980, 9 cm x 12.4 cm. Courtesy of Deepali Dewan.
Barbara with her kids Naina and Arjun, and grandma (daddi) Indira, who is visiting from India. Anil Dewan, Niagara Falls. Dye coupler print, August 1980, 9 cm x 12.4 cm. Courtesy of Deepali Dewan.

The Family Camera is an original Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) exhibition that looks at family photographs through the lens of immigration. With nearly every photograph featured in this exhibition coming from a Canadian home, The Family Camera sheds light on how family photos reflect and shape our sense of self, family, community, and nation.

The Family Camera is divided into several sections:

  • Cameras for the Family features a timeline of cameras made for the amateur photographer, from early box cameras preloaded with film and costing only one dollar to digital cameras and cellphones that have made taking and sharing digital photographs increasingly easy.
  • State of Family considers the ways state policy determines which photos can be taken, who gets recognized as a family, and therefore what a family photograph looks like.
  • Snapshots Don’t Grow Up presents conventional ways of photographing children, such as birthdays or Christmas, that camera advertisements encouraged, showing parents how to compose “Kodak moments”.
  • On the Move explores family photographs in a world of increasing mobility and includes a wall of photographs taken at Niagara Falls over the last hundred years.
  • Missing Chapters (only at The Art Gallery of Mississauga) examines family photographs that are lost, abandoned, don’t survive, or don’t exist — and invites visitors to contribute stories of “missing chapters” in their own family archives.

The Family Camera is presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM):

  • ROM – from May 6 to October 29, 2017
  • AGM – from May 4 to August 27, 2017

The Family Camera is one of the primary exhibitions of the 2017 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

PRESS RELEASE

ROM presents The Family Camera In Celebration of Canada 150

A primary exhibition in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

TORONTO, April 28, 2017 – The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to announce the opening of The Family Camera, an original ROM exhibition that explores how family photographs reflect and shape our experiences of migration and our sense of identity. On display from Saturday, May 6, to Monday, October 29, 2017, in the Museum’s Roloff Beny Gallery, the exhibition is part of the ROM’s Canada 150 year-long celebration. The Family Camera is one of the primary exhibitions of the 2017 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

“The Family Camera exhibition uses a visual lens to bring personal, everyday stories of the Canadian experience into focus, making this exhibition a fitting way to celebrate our 150th year,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “This exhibition highlights the ROM’s vital role as a place of discovery and new research, where the public is engaged as active participants in the museum experience.”

The exhibition examines the enduring connection between migration and family photography. In Canada, migration is central to family history, whether recent or in the past and whether over short or long distances. From departures and arrivals to everyday moments and milestones, family photographs depict our journeys and our deep-rooted need for connection. The exhibition considers the political, social and technological factors that reconfigure families, including dislocation, marriage equality, and social media. The Family Camera also explores how these factors transform the photographs we capture and how we share them.

Almost every photograph in this evocative exhibition comes from a Canadian home. As a result, it demonstrates the familiar and unexpected ways that family photographs define our sense of self, family, community, and nation.

“The Family Camera encourages visitors to think differently about family photographs. Rather than just reflecting or illustrating the past, family photographs are active agents that continue to shape our memories and experiences and define a sense of family. The exhibition examines family photographs as a cultural practice,” says Dr. Deepali Dewan, the Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art & Culture, ROM.

The Family Camera is a partnership with the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM), with works on display at both venues. Over two hundred objects are featured in the exhibition, including photographs, vintage cameras and ephemera. These objects have been collected through a public archive project launched in 2016 by The Family Camera Network. This multi-year research project includes six partner institutions supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Canadians can participate in the ongoing project until the end of the year and contribute to the exhibition through digital and social media. The Family Camera also includes work by contemporary artists Deanna Bowen and Jeff Thomas on display at the ROM, and Dinh Q. Lê (at the AGM).  An immersive installation, “The Living Room,” created by graduate students at OCAD University, uses projection-mapping technology to explore the power of storytelling through the sharing of family photographs.

“The ROM is renowned for its ability to showcase important works throughout our history in new and innovative ways, and The Family Camera is another great example of this,” says Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “The use of family photographs from diverse communities highlights the cultural fabric of our province and our diversity, which is something to celebrate in our 150th year. I’m delighted that the Ontario150 program is supporting this unique exhibition that will help ensure our artistic and cultural legacies are treasured by future generations.”

Exhibition Details

The Family Camera is divided into several sections. Cameras for the Family features a timeline of cameras made for the amateur photographer. The timeline includes early box cameras preloaded with film and costing only one dollar, as well as digital cameras and cellphones that have made taking and sharing digital photographs increasingly easy. State of Family considers the ways state policy determines which photos can be taken, who gets recognized as a family, and therefore what a family photograph looks like. For example, the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act barred the families of Chinese men who had come as labourers from joining them in Canada, and until 1996, Indian residential schools split up Indigenous families. Snapshots Don’t Grow Up presents conventional ways of photographing children, such as birthdays or Christmas, that camera advertisements encouraged, showing parents how to compose “Kodak moments”. These three sections provide context for the largest grouping, On the Move, which explores family photographs in a world of increasing mobility. The images in this section capture people before, during, or after a move. They also show how photographs travel across distances, through the mail or social media, as a way to strengthen familial bonds. This section includes a wall of photographs taken at Niagara Falls over the last hundred years, showing how even tourist images bring together different forms of mobility and help families assert a sense of national belonging.

The Art Gallery of Mississauga features a unique section of the exhibition that runs from May 4 to August 27, 2017.   Missing Chapters examines family photographs that are lost, abandoned, don’t survive, or don’t exist. The work “Lost Photographs” invites visitors to contribute stories of “missing chapters” in their own family archives.

The exhibition has been curated by Deepali Dewan (lead), Jennifer Orpana, Thy Phu, Julie Crooks, and Sarah Bassnett, with the assistance of Sarah Parsons and Silvia Forni.

Visit here for full exhibition details.

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