FotoFest Exhibitions

Dona Schwartz

Selected By: William A. Ew ing, Director, Musée de l’Elysée,
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

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On the Nest

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 Photography, Chicago.