Sunday, June 13, 2004

Louisville art museum turns into global family album

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A global family gathering lasting for months will take place near the banks of the Ohio River.

About 100 family portraits taken by a globe-trotting German photographer go on display this month at Waterfront Park and the Speed Art Museum. The nearly life-size photos are a cross-section of the 1,000 portraits snapped by Uwe Ommer during his four-year odyssey.

Ommer logged 160,000 miles by car and many more by plane while hopscotching five continents from 1996 to 2000 to photograph families of all different sizes, colors and religions.

The photos are accompanied by short texts - written in English, German and French - describing each family's situation. About 75 photos will be displayed at the park along Louisville's rejuvenated waterfront. The rest will be shown at the Speed, a few miles away.

The project fulfilled a New Year's resolution, Ommer said.

"While my friends decided to stop smoking or start drinking, I chose to start a trip around the globe and immortalize the family all around," said Ommer, a photographer for more than 30 years.

Ommer said the collection carries a unifying message. Despite their differences, families worldwide share the same aspirations, he said.

"The idea is to accept these differences and to discover how much we are all alike," he said. "And, consequently, how easily we should be able to get along with each other."

Julien Robson, curator of contemporary art at the Speed, said Ommer's project created "a family of mankind." The photos also reflect that families don't come in "just one model," he said.

Robson said the exhibition is timely and thought-provoking given the unrest and strife in the world today.

"We live in a world of enormous conflict at the moment, where it's very easy for us to kind of decide who's the good guys and who are the bad guys," he said. "And the way that we do it is so prejudicial so often, like the color of people's skin or coming from certain parts of the world. So I think it just opens all of that up."

Ommer said he hopes his show inspires people to get to know those from different cultures.

"Go and visit each other, I'm sure you'll be welcome," he said.

The show opens Thursday at the Speed and runs until Nov. 28. The entire collection of Ommer's photos are displayed in a book titled 1000 Families.

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