The Family Life of ANU Art Students

Six visual art students from the ANU have had their works exhibited in a collaborative project entitled Family. Life. created by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. ANU students Kristen Firth, Ari Hunt, Sarah Hunter, Mikhaila Jurkiewicz, Micaiah Koh, and Monica Styles had their works chosen for exhibition within the project.

Contributing art students from around the world were asked to submit works in various mediums under the concept of “family”. The project aims to capture the family dynamic, its spatial and identity challenges, and the web of relationships that constitute the family structure.

When asked about the inspiration behind the collaboration, director Andrea Wise said that “the inspiration for Family. Life. was Edward Steichen’s landmark photography exhibition entitled The Family of Man”. Steichen’s work, which was first shown in 1955, similarly exposed the human experience, and has been viewed by more than 9 million people. Her mentor, Professor Mike Davis at Syracuse, suggested recapturing this exhibition with the works of current photography students.

Ari Hunt’s video “Ken Hunt” is an animation illustrating a story about their grandfather related to them by their father. The film builds an intimate picture of Hunt’s grandfather through its cartoonish yet striking visuals and conversational narration, with Hunt hoping to “[preserve] people’s’ stories both in historical and personal contexts” as per the advice of their main inspiration, Sophia Turkiewicz. The film was produced for a video class at the ANU School of Art, whose equipment and lecturers “definitely helped [Hunt] make this film”.

Hunt said: “It’s not for everyone, though. I know some people who dropped out because they felt it wasn’t focused enough on what they wanted to do, but I enjoyed the opportunity… After first year the program becomes a lot more self-directed.”

Micaiah Koh’s series of photographs “Untitled” consists of portraits of strangers who passed his photographic setup in one of the ANU’s student lodges. Wanting to view life from an “uncommon perspective”, Koh chose to have the backs of his subjects facing the camera to remove assumptions of “ethnicity, belief, and race.” Influenced by his upbringing in a large family, Koh intended for his work to represent diversity and to emphasise the need for empathy with persons of differing backgrounds, and encouraged photographers to recognise this.

“I believe that taking the next step in having a genuine desire to learn more about the backgrounds of other people plays a fundamental role in reducing blatant and unhelpful stereotyping of those around us,” he said.

Sarah Hunter’s photographic essay “I AM WOMAN”, chronicles her mother’s intensely personal struggle with metaplastic breast cancer and the emotions it evoked from her mother and Hunter herself. Consisting of 11 black-and-white portraits of her mother during various stages of her treatment, it testified to the “timeless record of documentary portraiture” while elucidating life’s fragility and the intensity of Hunter’s mother-daughter relationship.

Wise commented on Hunter’s work, saying: “I see [Hunter’s] photographs and I think about my own mother, and how, as her daughter, it would be so difficult to see my mother going through something like that. That’s what I think strong photography does – it makes you want to hug those you love a little tighter.”

Impressed by the exhibition’s artists, Wise was moved by the breadth and depth of the works presented in the project. A book of the works is in the process of being published and will be shipped to the participating schools.

Image Credit: Ken Hunt, Ari Hunt 2015 Video