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It was two years ago to date that General Mills released the Cheerios commercial that sparked a national conversation about many of the commonly held assumptions about race and the make up of the "typical American family". It was this very conversation that catapulted TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILIES creator Carlton Mackey to create a platform to:
"celebrate the beautiful spectrum of the American family as well as remove both the 'exoticism' and stereotypes that are associated with being a (quote/unquote) 'non-traditional' American family."
As parents of a bi-racial son, he and his wife were asked by AJC writer Ernie Suggs to offer their response to the commercial and what seemed to be a backlash as a result of it. Convinced that the negative response wasn't simply a lack of awareness of the presence of interracial couples in society but much more acutely connected to the lack of representation of the spectrum of manifestations of family in the media. Broadening this conversation to include various mis/underrepresented families was important to Mackey. Seeking to not define family but to discover the myriad ways in which people work to create family was one of the core objectives.
Two years later, we are proud that Typical American Families continues to carry out these objectives and works collaboratively with people all across the country to "CELEBRATE THE BEAUTIFUL SPECTRUM OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY AND EXPLORE NEW POSSIBILITIES OF WHAT 'FAMILY' MIGHT BE."
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 www.typicalamericanfamilies.com 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.
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.
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
By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | May 4, 2015
Conceived by Carlton Mackey, director of Emory's Ethics and the Arts Program, the exhibit offers a photographic glimpse into the lives of 15 Atlanta-area families, celebrating "the vast landscape of manifestations of family" across spectrums of culture, faith and ability, Mackey says.
The event includes a public reception and formal unveiling of the exhibit. Guests will also have a chance to meet families that participated in the community project, which showcases the diversity of the American family through the lens of international photographer/photoculturalist Ross Oscar Knight, Mackey's creative partner.
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.
We've finally finished arguably one of the hardest decision making processes in the life of Typical American Families to date. We have our final 15 Atlanta families selected to photograph for the One Region Atlanta Ideas Challenge Grant. This was a tough one!! Our photo sessions with these families will occur over the next two months with a final exhibit to unveil to the public this Spring at the Emory University Center for Ethics.
In the meantime, starting today, we're so excited to share with you some of the stories of the families who submitted. These heartfelt, emotional, funny, and inspiring reflections of America's culturally diverse families, is the very reason we started this movement. We want to celebrate the forever changing view of what constitutes an American Family and challenge some of the limited ways we've thought about it.
Stay tuned every Monday and Thursday where a new amazing family from those who submitted will be featured on our website and social media platforms.
A community photography project created by Carlton Mackey, director of Emory's Ethics and the Arts Program, to celebrate the spectrum of differences within modern American families has been awarded a 2014-2015 "Ideas Challenge Grant" by One Region Atlanta.
"Typical American Families" is an online platform exploring a wider view of American families through photographic images.
This month, Mackey's project was among four applicants selected to receive an Ideas Challenge grant award from One Region Atlanta, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
In their application, Mackey and his creative partner, international photographer/photoculturalist Ross Oscar Knight, proposed utilizing their "Typical American Family" platform to help bridge faith and culture in Atlanta by creating a traveling photo exhibit.
The $2,500 grant will be used to offer free family portrait sessions with Knight to about 15 Atlanta families. Copies of those photographs will be given to each family and will also be displayed through a traveling exhibit, which will be unveiled in spring 2015 in a ceremony and public gathering at Emory's Center for Ethics.
December 1, 2014
Emory University Center for Ethics
For Immediate Release
Co-Directors of Beautiful in Every Shade, Carlton Mackey and Ross Oscar Knight, are the winners of One Region Atlanta’s Ideas Challenge grant for 2014-2015.
Out of nearly 200 Ideas Challenge submissions, the two were awarded for their idea to utilize the platform www.typicalamericanfamilies.com to bridge faith and culture in the city of Atlanta.
This created a joint partnership between Beautiful in Every Shade, the campaign under which Typical American Families is housed and Emory University’s Ethics & the Arts program.
Up to 15 Atlanta families will be chosen for a free family portrait session with celebrated photographer Ross Oscar Knight. Families will receive a free copy of their photo and images will be displayed in a Traveling Photo Exhibit. Participating families will be brought together at an unveiling ceremony and exhibit at the Center for Ethics where they will share a multi-cultural meal and engage in community dialogue.
If you would like the opportunity to have your “typical” American family photographed and your story featured, please share your story and apply at http://typicalamericanfamilies.com/ . Deadline for submissions is December 12, 2014.
To view Ethics and the Arts current programming, please visit http://ethics.emory.edu
For more information about One Region Atlanta, please visit: http://www.oneregionatlanta.org/about-the-ideas-challenge
To learn more about Beautiful in Every Shade, please visit: http://www.beautifulineveryshade.com
1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta Georgia 30322 | 404.712.8307 | www.ethics.emory.edu
Marketing and Communications Manager
Emory University Center for Ethics
1531 Dickey Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30322