“The Geography of Marriage” Exhibit Explores Definitions of Marriage

The Geography of Marriage, an exhibit of photographs by Anne Weber, is on display at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy on Duke’s West Campus until December 30, 2010. The exhibit, located on the first floor of Rubenstein Hall, depicts 30 couples just before or after their brief, non-denominational civil ceremonies in government offices.

“At a time when weddings range from covenant marriages to same-sex unions, this exhibit examines how we define this institution both legally and personally,” Weber wrote. “When divorce is common, when its legal definition varies so widely across state lines, what, exactly, does marriage look like now? How do we come to define this institution for ourselves?”

Photo from "The Geography of Marriage" Exhibit Explores Definitions of MarriageTo explore these questions, Weber set up her large-format camera in the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh, N.C., and in Boston City Hall in Massachusetts. Each couple was photographed and asked to complete a short questionnaire covering age, occupation, reasons for choosing in a civil ceremony, and definitions of marriage. Their handwritten responses are displayed with the photographs.

Despite the diversity of Weber’s subjects, the couples share the complex history of marriage in America. Themes such as interracial marriage and segregation, same-sex unions, and military deployment are explored in the exhibit.

“The portraits act as a sort of contemporary archive of marriage, reflecting our hopes and expectations of what it means to unite for richer or for poorer," said Weber. “The photographs not only survey what marriage looks like today across state lines, but also begin to demarcate our private views on one of our most public institutions.”

A reception and panel discussion about U.S. public policies affecting marriage takes place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2010 in Rubenstein Hall room 153. The panel, titled “The Role of Marriage in 21st Century America,” will be moderated by Sanford School Assistant Professor Christina Gibson-Davis. Photographer Anne Weber is among the panelists. The event and exhibit are free and open to the public.

The Geography of Marriage is supported by the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and by the Sanford School. The Hine Program receives additional support from the Philanthropic Initiative and the Jessica Jennifer Cohen Foundation. The exhibit can be viewed on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Contact: Karen Kemp (Sanford School) at kkemp@duke.edu, (919) 613-7394 or Liisa Ogburn (CDS) liisa.ogburn@duke.edu, (919) 660-3663.