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Photo by: Loyall Hart for Ross Oscar Knight Photography

A crowd of nearly 100 gathered at the Emory University Center for Ethics to view the unveiling of the photo exhibit, TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES–ATLANTA.  As winner of the 2014 IDEAS Challenge grant from One Region Atlanta, Carlton Mackey utilized the funds to partner with long time collaborator and BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE Co-Director, Ross Oscar Knight.   Their idea was to build upon the mission of their existing platform at which celebrates the diversity of family and challenges the limited, normative understandings about what “family” can be.

In December 2014, the AJC featured a story by Shelia Poole about the duo’s winning idea which also included a call for submissions.  The community response was overwhelming.  Over 200 Atlanta-area families submitted personal stories and photos in support of the mission of the project and for consideration to be chosen for a photo shoot with Ross Oscar Knight.

Knight captures the beauty of the Allen Family along the Atlanta Beltline. Photo by Carlton Mackey.

Ultimately, twelve families were chosen and, over the course of several months, were photographed by Knight in areas reflective of the family’s personality and personal narrative.   These environments included public settings such as restaurants and parks, while others were photographed in various parts of their home. 

Mackey also documented the journey and produced a video documentary chronicling the families as they engaged at each of the photo shoots with each other and Knight.  “I had never met Ross before the shoot,” explained Antoinette Ellison in the documentary “but the photo shoot seemed so natural.  Before [Ross] left it was as if he were part of the family.” 

Prior to the May 7th unveiling event, none of the families saw their photos nor the video documentary.  Even upon entering the photo exhibit space, each image was covered.  The families were invited to come up one by one to uncover their photo.

Unveiling photos proved to reveal more than meets the eye.

The Ellison family, photographed in their home, prepared Sunday breakfast as part of their photo shoot.  In an emotional moment during the community conversation facilitated by Center for Ethics Director Paul Root Wolpe, Gregory C. Ellison III, who just a week prior to the photo shoot mourned the loss of his grandmother, stated that the angle Knight captured their family portrait made him feel as if his “grandmother was looking down on his family [from heaven].”

The exhibit will be on display at the Emory University Center for Ethics until June 30.  Mackey and Knight are also seeking support to aid with traveling the exhibit throughout the city and ultimately hosting Typical American Family photo shoots and community dialogues across the country. 

Photos by Loyall Hart for Ross Oscar Knight Photography

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The Unveiling of TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES -ATLANTA Exhibit at Emory University

Dear Supporters of Typical American Families,

We are thrilled to announce the reception and unveiling of our exhibit, Typical American Families –Atlanta,

winner of the 2014 One Region Atlanta IDEAS Challenge.

Please join Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight, as we celebrate you! 

Meet the families that participated in our photoshoots who represent the diversity of the American family.

You will hear stories and view how these Atlanta residents bridge faith and culture in our city. 

At this event, you'll gain insight into Mackey and Knight's inspiration for the project and get a behind the scenes glimpse of the making of this exhibit.  You’ll also be able to hear from the families themselves as they offer commentary on the experience of being part of this project and what they celebrate about their own families.


The reception will begin at 6:30 pm on May 7th

at Emory University’s Center for Ethics

1531 Dickey Drive

Atlanta GA 30322

 Light hors d'oeuvres will be provided.


Please register to attend:


Contact Mika Pettigrew with questions.




Typical American Families (ATLANTA) - New Featured Family every Monday and Thursday

We finally finished one of the hardest decision making processes in the life of Typical American Families to date. 15 Atlanta families from over 200 submissions have been chosen to receive a FREE PHOTO SESSION with celebrated international photographer Ross Oscar Knight.

These photo sessions will occur over the next two months and will culminate in a photography exhibit and a facilitated dialogue where each of the families will see their photos and meet the other chosen families for the first time. This event and the unveiling of the exhibit will take place at the Emory University Center for Ethics in the Spring.

Typical American Families (ATLANTA) was a winner of the 2014 One Region Atlanta Ideas Challenge Grant. The project is a component of the Ethics & the Arts Program and is a signature project of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE, a grassroots movement created by Ethics & the Arts Program Director Carlton Mackey that seeks to celebrate the beauty found in every human being.

Leading up to the exhibit, Typical American Families will share some of the stories and photos of the Atlanta area families who submitted. These heartfelt, emotional, funny, and inspiring stories represent a beautiful spectrum of the diverse ways of 'being a family'. Crossing barriers of race, religion, ability, class, sexuality, and age this project seeks to celebrate the many manifestations family and to challenge some of the limited ways we've thought about it.

Join us every Monday and Thursday on our website and social media platforms where a new amazing family from those who submitted will be featured.