Photography Professor Ann Fessler has won a 2014 Adoptee Trailblazer Award from the Adoption Initiative (a collaboration between St. John’s University and Montclair [NJ] State University) for her pioneering, inspirational work about unwed mothers who were forced to surrender their babies for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade.
As someone who was adopted in the 1950s herself, Fessler first explored the painful subject in her 2006 book The Girls Who Went Away (Penguin). She has subsequently created three related films – Cliff & Hazel (1999), a more personal experimental short called Along the Pale Blue River (2001) and A Girl Like Her (2012) – as well as audio and video installations.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the impact that images have on women’s idea of themselves, what they’re supposed to live up to,” Fessler recently told visual arts writer Lucy Davies. “I try to use stories as a microcosm for things that are going on in the world. Then I started using many, many stories at the same time and weaving them together.”
The nine-minute Along the Pale Blue River is on view in Chicago through July 13 as part of Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. A Girl Like Her will be screened on August 16 at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.