Since the very early days of silver nitrate-coated paper—and leather (who knew?)—in the 19th century, our quest to capture, preserve, and display images has pushed the envelopes of both science and art. And in this digital day of Instagram, iPhones, and the public’s obsession with pictures of everything from our pets and the food we put on our plate to exotic locales and the funny faces of friends, it’s not surprising that the old adage about “pictures being worth a thousand words” is more true than ever. That’s why I was so captivated by an exhibit that’s running through April at the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage.
Talented Desert Sun photojournalist Marilyn Chung spent more than two months chronicling the modern day concept of “family,” which yielded diverse groups that all display close-knit ties that bind. As we have come to know, a family can be much more than the genetically connected group of people most of us grew up with. So in that vein, Marilyn photographed “families” that include not only nuclear units of relatives, but also collections of unrelated people such as the Friends of Rescues (who met through their dogs), the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, and folks from the Mirage Inn, an assisted-living facility in Rancho Mirage. “Chosen families,” as I like to say.
I feel so fortunate to live in the Palm Springs Valley, where the word “family” can mean so many different things to so many different people. And that—in a nutshell—seems to be the philosophy of this wonderful educational institution. Founded by Holocaust survivor Earl Greif, the center strives to be a learning experience about the dangers of hatred and bigotry. Programs include a variety of lectures and seminars, in addition to some really moving exhibits. Marilyn’s photographs are suitable viewing for all members of all families, and may just help some in yours see that—just like photographs—family units and their members come in all colors of the spectrum. No, it’s not just black and white.