Roswell Angier, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mills, Pilgrim Theatre

Roswell Angier, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mills, Pilgrim Theatre, 1973. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Polaroid Foundation Purchase Fund. Reproduced with permission.

‘(un)expected families’ at MFA Boston

Bringing together more than 75 pictures taken by American photographers from the 19th century to today, ‘(un)expected families’ explores the definition of the American family—from the families we’re born into, to the ones we’ve chosen for ourselves. MFA Boston, December 9, 2017–June 17, 2018.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The selection of works on view depicts a wide range of relationships, including multiple generations, romantic unions and alternative family structures. Using archival, vernacular, and fine art photographs, the exhibition illustrates that family has always taken diverse forms—a fact photographers have documented since the birth of the camera—and challenges visitors to consider what family means to them.

Drawn primarily from the MFA’s collection, the exhibition features photographs by Nan Goldin (born 1953), Carrie Mae Weems (born 1953), Nicholas Nixon (born 1947), Elsa Dorfman (born 1937), Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) and Gordon Parks (1912–2006), among others. Loans from private collections include Victorian-era “Hidden Mother” photographs of infants in the laps of concealed parents—a trick to keep the children still during a long exposure—and turn-of-the-century portraits of women in intimate relationships sometimes referred to as “Boston marriages.” Additionally, the exhibition showcases new acquisitions by photographers, including David Hilliard (born 1964) and Sage Sohier (born 1954), and works by Boston-area artists, including Jeannie Simms (born 1967), Zoe Perry-Wood (born 1959), Amber Tourlentes (born 1970) and Caleb Cole (born 1981).

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