Dona Schwartz: In the Kitchen
Portfolio Introduction

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is the hub of my family’s life. It’s the place where we seek physical and emotional sustenance. It’s the place where we congregate to touch base, negotiate, and strategize. It’s the place where we welcome in close friends and recent acquaintances, introducing them to our daily rituals. It’s the place where we make a mess of things and do our best to clean it all up. We pass on ideals, skills, and traditions in the kitchen.

I began regularly photographing my kitchen in the fall of 2002. In this singular space I’ve discovered a range of activities, interactions, and emotions that provide me with a wellspring for reflecting on the meanings of family, interconnection and individuation. Seen over an extended period of time, the kitchen offers a view of life’s continuities and changes. Carefully viewed, it can render events that transfer behaviors and values from one generation to the next; it provides a microcosmic glimpse of the dynamics of family.

When I sold my house in August 2003 it moved the project in a new direction. My children and I now inhabit a new kitchen, and we’ve expanded from a single-parent family comprised by me, my sons, Daniel, who is now 23, and Eric, 18, and my daughter, Lara, 12, to a two-parent, blended family of eight, including my partner Ken, and his three children, Justin, 23, Hillary, 19, and Chelsea, 16.

Since the move I have photographed the complicated process of merging two distinct families. During this time we have negotiated dinner menus and holiday rituals, we have celebrated our union as a family, and we have mourned the death of my mother. In the new kitchen alliances and tensions emerge and disappear, new routines get established, old and new friends arrive and depart. Despite many changes, this remains constant: the kitchen is still the hub of my family’s life. Within the limits of its well-defined domain I explore the unbounded complexity of family.

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