Home is Where the Kitchen Is

Photographer Dona Schwartz viewed her family through her camera lens in the hub of their household: the kitchen

For two years, photographer Dona Schwartz chronicled the newly blended family members' interactions in the shared space of their kitchen. (Dona Schwartz)

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Any one picture you’d especially like to talk about?
Oh, thumbing through – some of them are so funny, they just kill me! There’s this one where (p. 83) Lara and Chelsea are frying an egg. They’re standing there watching this egg as if something miraculous is going to happen, and to me it was funny that it was such a weighty situation to them. It turned out to be the first time that either one of them had fried an egg! That was astounding to me. I was just sort of amazed at their amazement. And I like the two little flowers on the left side of the image, because the girls are sort of flowering into their own, and of course the egg has symbolic importance too.

When, and why, did this project come to an end?
I stopped photographing on a regular basis in the end of 2005, because there were only two kids left at home and the story really had in a way resolved itself. Things had settled in after two years; everyone kind of knew what to expect from everyone else, and the process of becoming a family had pretty much taken place.

How did the kids like the results?
You know, kids are so hard to figure out, so I really don’t know. Most of them were pretty nonchalant and haven’t spoken to me about it much. It’s been like: Oh, here’s Mom’s book. Oh hey, what’s for dinner?

What do you hope the public will learn from your work?
I think it’s really important that photographers, at least some of us, pay attention to the complexities of everyday life at this particular historical moment. Things change; families change; culture changes. Our way of living, at this moment in time, will vanish. Not everyone appreciates the importance of photographing these quotidian things but I think we need to preserve them, so that we know who we are.

Although there’s always an appetite for pictures of things that we’ve never seen before, we often overlook the things that are in our everyday lives that are actually quite complicated and interesting; even profound. Human beings are really complicated. You don’t have to travel anywhere to be able to make pictures of things that are really important to think about.

Dona Schwartz teaches photography and visual communication at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. In the Kitchen was published by Kehrer Verlag.

About Amanda Fiegl

Amanda Fiegl is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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