In June of 2014 I worked alongside my collaborator and friend, photographer Emily Fitzgerald to produce Public Displays of Affection. RACC (the Regional Arts and Culture Council) organizes the Portland Building Installation Space and decides who gets to show there. Emily and I both explore intimate relationships with our work so we proposed to fill the space with a temporary photo studio and shoot portraits of the workers in the building with their "chosen families." When I think of family, I might first think of blood relatives. But many of us have people in our lives –a friend, neighbor, roommate, step-sibling, partner– that are like family members by choice. So, when we say chosen family, that's what we mean.
We offered studio sessions in late May and June 2014 and took photos of nearly 40 groups and individuals. As we shot we were also going through a collaborative editing process to select the images that we felt best reflected the nature of the relationship. For each session we selected one image to print, frame, and install on the space. Each week we brought a new batch of framed prints to hang. This created a sense of flux that brought people back to the space over and over to see the changes and the new images of their friends and coworkers.
During the exhibition we were interviewed for OPB's Arts and Life blog by Ifanyi Bell. From the article:
"Public Display of Affection (PDA) is this formalized term for a really personal way that people interact in a public space. It's also a way of acknowledging the observer of the interaction in a way, which in this case includes both me and Emily shooting the photos and the viewers of the installation," said Thomas... "We're asking people to step into the studio, and into the public, and tell us why they chose to be photographed together."
You can listen to an audio interview on the OPB radio program State of Wonder. Selected images from the project are below.