Zoe and Tsehaye were born in Ethiopia and adopted by Lory and Sonya, a lesbian couple living in the US. When the girls are in middle school, Lory takes them to Ethiopia to explore their heritage. Although her same-sex partnership has been accepted within her community for over 20 years, Lory chooses to keep it a secret on their trip. In Ethiopia, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. Helen is an orphan living with her aunt and uncle in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Helen, Zoe, and Tsehaye meet in Ethiopia, a strong bond is formed. Together, the two girls with two mothers and one motherless girl navigate the geographical, cultural, and emotional space of losing and finding family.
Alison Aucoin’s journey to adopt and parent a child from Ethiopia requires her to accept the consequences, good and bad, of the destruction of her life in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Through this experience, she questions what it means to be a woman and a mother without being a wife. She now confronts subtle and overt racism in the South as a white mother with an African daughter. Uprooted from the place of her birth, Alison strives to develop a multi-faceted definition of “home.”
Alison Aucoin and I have been collaborating on this project since April 2007, a year and a half before we traveled together to Ethiopia for Alison to adopt her daughter Edelawit. Together, we have amassed thousands of photographs and dozens of hours of digital audio recordings. This project is a work in progress.
In 2006, I experienced the other side of the adoption equation during the nine months I spent in Ethiopia as a Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Placed with an organization called Hope for Children, which supports children whose families have been affected by HIV and allows them to stay within their own communities, I saw the efforts Ethiopians are making to support as many children as they can.
But, too, I saw the pain developing countries feel when they have no choice but to send their children abroad. In addition to being a life-changing experience, this exposure was essential in my quest to understand adoption. Having only seen adoption from the perspective of the adoptive family, I hadn’t seen the entire picture. Although I spent time in only one country and one community, seeing these harsh realities helped me gain a more critical eye and realize the circumstances and pressures felt by communities worldwide.
Through audio and photographs, Five Farms puts a personal face on the lives and livelihoods of farmers across the United States. The farming families who are profiled in this project — they live in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, and California — share their experiences in the audio stories and pictures; in a series of five one-hour radio documentaries on public radio stations nationwide, from Public Radio International and in a series of radio features first heard on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
For this project, I documented the daily lives of the Griffieon family in Ankeny, Iowa.