Genetic Material @ SMFA – On View Oct 15 – Nov 20

“Genetic Material” is an exhibition put on by Claire Becket’s portrait class at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, featuring the work of Fatima Albudoor, Meg Bergstrand, Aaron John Bourque, Emil Cohen, Cassandra Klos, Rene Morisson, Birdie Piccininni, Dayna Rochell, Simone Schiess, and Matt Williams. The photographs shown seem to fall into four main categories.

Left: "Bookcase" by Aaron John Bourque, Right: "Much Love Love" by Cassandra Klos

Left: “Bookcase” by Aaron John Bourque, Right: “Much Love Love” by Cassandra Klos

Some of the photographers re-photographed found documents imbued with personal histories.

Left: "Olinda" by Cassandra Klos, Right: "Della and Collin" by Simone Schiess

Left: “Olinda” by Cassandra Klos, Right: “Della and Collin” by Simone Schiess

"Alopecia - mother, daughter" by Dayna Rochell

“Alopecia – mother, daughter” by Dayna Rochell

Others show formal portraits of family members. Whether the artist literally appears in these photos or not, each family portrait firmly contains the artist’s presence. Directing and collaborating with family members to create a portrait can be a ritualized way for photographers to share their experience of viewing life and relationships through a photographic lens.

"Chaise haute de famile/Famile kinderstoel" by Matt Williams

“Chaise haute de famile/Famile kinderstoel” by Matt Williams

Inanimate objects also stand in for literal people, potent environmental details that capture something of what makes up a particular home.

Left: "Lucy's Wedding - Max" by Emil Cohen, Right: "Lake Hayward Days" by Birdie Piccininni

Left: “Lucy’s Wedding – Max” by Emil Cohen, Right: “Lake Hayward Days” by Birdie Piccininni

The show also features snapshots that fall at the intersection between vernacular and fine art photography.

Through its many approaches to photographing family, “Genetic Material” susses out common themes that unite the show without erasing its complexity. The show hones in on specific details that engage the viewer and features the high level of technical quality throughout that always makes me love seeing SMFA photo shows. “Genetic Material” is on view in the atrium of the SMFA until November 20th, be sure to check it out!


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