Public Displays of Affection

Artists: Emily Fitzgerald, Erica Thomas
Services: Art, Design, Public Engagement

To explore the changing dynamics of family structure in the United States we transformed an installation space in the Portland Building into a photo studio to offer those who use and work in the building an opportunity to have portraits taken with their chosen families. Participants were encouraged to think beyond traditional definitions and deeply investigate what “family” means. We attempted to promote interesting conversations and highlight the critical relationships between the participants and their chosen families. Through this project employees in the building had a rare opportunity to see their co-workers in a more intimate way. The experience transformed a municipal building into a space where visitors and employees, gathered, laughed, cried, commented and shared an often unseen perspective on their lives.

'Public display of affection’ is a formalized term for a very personal way that people interact in public space, and it also acknowledes the observer of the interaction. We asked people to step into the studio, and into the public, and tell us why they chose to be photographed together. Each group that participated was given a framed photograph from the shoot. The final images on this page were taken by the participants in the location where they chose to hang their "family portrait."

You can listen to an audio interview on the OPB radio program State of Wonder or read more on the OPB Arts page