Schwartz, Dona

Dona Schwartz, Minneapolis MN, USA

Dona Schwartz is a photographer whose work explores everyday life and culture. She earned her PhD at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in visual communication and ethnographic research. In addition to working as a photographic artist, she is a scholar and an educator.
Among her academic publications are two photographic ethnographies, Waucoma Twilight: Generations of the Farm (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992) and Contesting the Super Bowl (Routledge, 1997). Her photographic monograph, In the Kitchen, was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2009. Her award-winning photographs have been internationally exhibited and published, and her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Musée de l’Elysée, the George Eastman House, the Harry Ransom Center, the Portland Art Museum, and the Kinsey Institute. Born in Philadelphia, PA, Dona lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is Associate Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is the hub of my family's life. It's the place where we seek

physical and emotional sustenance. It's the place where we congregate to touch base, negotiate, and strategize. It's the place where we welcome in close friends and recent acquaintances, introducing them to our daily rituals. It's the place where we make a mess of things and do our best to clean it all up. We pass on ideais, skills, and traditions in the kitchen.

I began regularly photographing my kitchen in the fail of 2002. In this singular space I've discovered a range of activities, interactions, and emotions that provide me with a wellspring for reflecting on the meanings of family, interconnection and individuation. Seen over an extended period of time, the kitchen offers a view of life's continuities and changes. Carefully viewed, it can render events that transfer behaviors and values from one generation to the next; it provides a microcosmic giimpse of the dynamics of family. When I soid my house in August 2003 it moved the project in a new direction. My children and I now inhabit a new kitchen, and we've expanded from a single-parent family comprised by me, my sons, Daniel, who is now 23, and Eric, 18, and my daughter. Lara, 12, to a two-parent, biended family of eight, including my partner Ken, and his three children, Justin, 23, Hillary, 19, and Chelsea, 16. Since the move I have photographed the complicated process of merging two distinct families.

During this time we have negotiated dinner menus and holiday rituals, we have celebrated our union as a family, and we have moumed the death of my mother. In the new kitchen alliances and tensions emerge and disappear, new routines get established, oid and new friends arrive and depart. Despite many changes, this remains constant: the kitchen is stiil the hub of my family's life. Within the limits of its well-defined domain I explore the unbounded complexity of family.


Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland
Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR
The Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN


In the Kitchen. Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg: Germany, 2009
Contesting the Super Bowl. New York and London: Routledge, 1997
Waucoma Twilight: Generations of the Farm. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992