“Documenting Ethnic Wedding Traditions” features photographs by Katrina Thomas ’49

Posted September 18th, 2008 at 12:46 pm.

“Documenting Ethnic Wedding Traditions in America: The Photographs of Katrina Thomas,” an exhibition of work by Katrina Thomas ’49, opened on Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the Canaday Library Class of 1912 Rare Book Room. The exhibition was curated by Tracie Wilson, 2007-08 Postdoctoral Fellow in Scholarly Information Resources, and Jenny Castle ’09.

The images in the exhibition were selected from a collection of more than 800 photographs that Thomas donated to the College in 2007, along with extensive notes about each wedding. Extracts from these notes are incorporated in the descriptions of the individual photographs.

Thomas began photographing ethnic festivals and parades in the late 1960s as a way of documenting the increasingly diverse nature of American society. Within a few years, she focused on weddings, in which she could see the importance of cultural traditions to a community more clearly than in the often-scripted and commercialized festivals. Capturing the weddings on film highlighted a community’s religious and cultural traditions while revealing how those traditions were changing in a new world.

Over the last 30 years, Thomas has photographed weddings in more than 70 ethnic and religious communities across the United States. While the greatest number took place in recent immigrant families, there are also many in older immigrant communities. Thomas sought out weddings where the family had decided to maintain or revive their group’s ceremonial traditions, although often enacting them within a contemporary context.

The entire collection of photographs can be found online as part of the Tri-College Digital Collections: http://triptych.brynmawr.edu/cdm4/wedding.php

Katrina Thomas has had a long career as a freelance photographer. She worked extensively in Africa and the Middle East, and her photographs have appeared in Time, Newsweek, Aramco World, and publications of the U.S. Information Agency. Her ethnic wedding photographs were featured in Something Old, Something New: Ethnic Weddings in America, a traveling exhibit cosponsored by Modern Bride and the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia in the 1980s. She is also the author of three photographic books for children, My Skyscraper City: A Child’s View of New York (1963), Chito (1968), and Oh, Boy! Babies! (1980).

An opening reception, hosted by the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library, took place on Sept. 23, with comments by Katrina Thomas and Tracie Wilson, For further information, call 610-526-6576.

Comments are closed.