On the Nest
Click to enlarge
I was delighted to discover Dona Schwartz’s work in
Houston two years ago. I was immediately struck by
the marvelous contrast between the expectant parents—
so fresh, so naive, so hopeful, so confident, and so
wrong (and so wrong to be so sure of themselves, but
then only another parent who has been through the
mill can know that!)—and then, in another series fastforward
to parents whose birds had suddenly flown the
nest, leaving behind the residue of chaotic adolescence.
Standing there, the other parents (more often than not
reduced to a single parent) now look shell-shocked with
all the earlier complacency bleached from their expressions.
It is as if they don’t quite know what hit them. Now
that the whole child-rearing roller-coaster was over—
in a flash it seemed—you could see the bewilderment
mixed with relief written on their faces.
I liked the fact, too, that the photographer doesn’t seem
to feel superior to her subjects. In creating these series,
she clearly understood what they were going through
or were about to go through, and her sympathy shines
through in the pictures.
Years from now, anthropologists will delight in these
pictures that are so rich in cultural information. I
especially loved the tribal element, which our society
so highhandedly feels is behind or beneath us.
- William A. Ewing
Dona Schwartz was born in Philadelphia and now lives in
Minneapolis. She earned her Ph.D. at the Annenberg School
for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
She works as a photographic artist, scholar, and educator.
She is on the faculty of the School of Journalism and
Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, where
she teaches visual communication, history of the documentary,
and documentary photography. Among her many academic
publications are two photographic ethnographies, Waucoma
Twilight: Generations of the Farm (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1992) and Contesting the Super Bowl (New
York: Routledge, 1997). Her first photographic monograph, In
the Kitchen, was published by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany,
in 2009. Her work has been exhibited internationally in
numerous solo and group exhibitions and is included in the
collections of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; the
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; the Harry Ransom
Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin;
the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; the Kinsey Institute, Indiana
University, Bloomington; and the Museum of Contemporary