A Little Truth: Fact and Fiction in Family Photography: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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A Little Truth: Fact and Fiction in Family Photography

March 20-July 7, 2024
Leffmann Gallery
Unidentified photographer, mid-20th century, photograph, 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Peter J. Cohen, 2019.17.101

When we have our picture taken, we often try to present our best selves. Even during difficult moments, we might force a smile, sit straighter, move closer together, cover the stain on our shirt. We might take pictures of things as we would like to remember them, present ourselves as we would like to be seen, even if—and especially when—there is significantly more to the story.

Drawing from The Block’s collection, this intimate exhibition weaves together personal snapshots and work by artists who have integrated family photography into their visual language. By incorporating family photographs into their artwork in various ways, these artists make visible some of the memories, realities, and complexities that might lie beneath the facades of family photography.

This exhibition asks us to deepen our own looking practices to better understand the role of photographs in familial memory: What is the relationship between what we see in a photograph and what we know or don’t know? How are memories shaped by what cannot be represented visually? And what is the relationship between private family photographs and broader cultural histories? In our digital age, where photo filters and editing are so prevalent, this exhibition provides a space to reflect on the power of what we cannot, and in some cases, do not want to see.

Curated by 2023–24 Block Interdisciplinary Fellow Madison Brown with Corinne Granof, Academic Curator