Diana Cheren Nygren, The Persistence of Family –

Portfolio Competition Winner

Exhibition Dates: June 22 – July 10, 2022

This series interrogates the role of family history in shaping our sense of ourselves and our place in the world. I have composited my family photographs, photographs I took of my children, and images of the New England landscapes in which they and I grew up. In the images, generations reach for each other across time. The project is driven by a longing for connection, and by an anxiety around individual responsibility in passing on family history. 

Though rooted in personal narratives, the pictures also address both a universal experience and a culturally specific one. My father’s parents came to the United States to escape religious persecution in Ukraine. My mother’s family came earlier, part of a Jewish community determined to erase their history and assimilate.  Both of these histories have formed me.  Many of their specifics seem lost on my children, although I have watched them become more connected to their history as overt acts of antisemitism in the United States become more commonplace and more recently as war decimates Ukraine. This work raises questions about genetics in forming and connecting people, and the continuity of historical narratives, and suggests both past and future resides within each of us.