On Saturday May 23, 2015, during ROM Big Weekend: Global Family and in conjunction with the exhibition “Generations,” artist-photographer Annu Matthew set up studio in the ROM galleries to take complimentary family photographs of ROM visitors. After a steady stream of interested parties that lasted all day, a total of 53 families were able to take advantage of the opportunity! Each received a free print, which was selected, edited and printed on the spot, and a digital file was emailed to them. This simple activity showed how meaningful the concept of family still is in our world today, as well as the different manifestations it can take through the network of relatives and friends in our lives.
The exhibition explored how contemporary artist Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (b. 1964) uses the family photograph as a source of inspiration for much of her work. For Matthew, the family photograph is an object filled with emotional and psychological energy. Her work asks us to consider the distance between the past and present, and the separation of fact from fabricated history. What are family photographs? How do they work to shape our memories? What can they really tell us about history? Do our family photographs have meaning for anyone else? Matthew’s work reveals the expressive potential of family photographs and builds on the powerful grip they have on our imagination, memory, and sense of self. Family photos are also a way to explore the larger dynamics of national identity, collective memory, and social transformation.