In the Kitchen Photographs by Dona Schwartz Published by Kehrer Verlag, 2009.
Dona Schwartz's In the Kitchen has something to do with cooking, but it's more a stew of familial observations. I was already familiar with this body of work, but seeing it in book form made it even more meaningful. The book affords the luxury of reading Alison Nordstrom's insightful and intelligent introduction before spending time with Schwartz's layered and revealing photographs, plus her own introduction, all enhanced by the poetry of Marion Winik, who wrote specifically for the project. It's a wonderful look into a life and room filled with complexities, yet comfortingly normal and true.
After reassessing her photography goals in 2002, Schwartz decided to pick up her camera and put down her pen on a birthday weekend when her children offered to do all the cooking. Instead of taking leave of the kitchen, she stayed to photograph the pandemonium of a blended family of 6 children all trying to create a celebratory meal in harmony. After reviewing her images, she realized she was on to something. In particular, a room that acts as the nexus for a familial planetary rotation, spinning around food and homework and life in general. Over the next several years, Schwartz managed to capture the essence of her life's kitchen, full of teenage spice and generational seasoning. Because this project spanned several years, Schwartz was able to capture the push and pull of generations--whether that be her camera-shy mother who continually looks pained at the thought of being photographed, or a teenage daughter intent on sharing her tattoos and latest piercing.
And while we investigate images that have a "Where's Waldo" quality with so many elements to explore and savor, there is still cooking to be done. It's a life filled with pizza and pasta, nachos and corn dogs, eggs and guacamole, but also with classic moments of 3 generations of cocktail preferences, bags of trash and backpacks, a dog, and the mess of collective of personalities. Schwartz remains a participant observer, chronicling her family not only as a form of documentation, but as an artist, and most importantly, as a mother.
The book is beautifully printed and is a size and shape that is unlike any cookbook I've ever seen....and it's also stain free.
Aline Smithson After a career as a New York Fashion Editor and working along side the greats of fashion photography, Aline Smithson discovered the family Rolleiflex and never looked back. Now represented by galleries across the country and published throughout the world, Smithson continues to create her award-winning photography with humor, compassion, and a 50-year-old camera. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including the PDN Photo Annual, Communication Arts Photo Annual, Eyemazing, Artworks, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines. She has exhibited widely including solo shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Oswald Gallery, and Wallspace Gallery in Seattle. Smithson has been the Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, writes and edits the blog Lenscratch, and has curated exhibitions for a number of galleries and on-line magazines. Since 2001, Smithson has been an instructor with the Julia Dean Photo Workshops, teaching, amongst other classes, a series to help Emerging Photographers navigate the Fine Art market. She was nominated for The Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award in 2008 and for the Santa Fe Prize in Photography in 2009 from the Santa Fe Center of Photography. She is a 2009 juror for Critical Mass, and will be a reviewer at Review LA in 2010.