A book in image and word by Karen Davis
Photographs by Karen Davis
Text by subjects, the Morgan Orton family, excerpted from five sources
Preface by Alison Nordstrom,
( A preview as the book moves towards completion)
Spanning twenty-two years, A Family Portrait: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, is an intimate visual and textual portrait of a family as it cruises along, gets clobbered by a treacherous childhood illness—Childhood Onset Schizophrenia (COS)— and then moves forward.
The subjects of my book, the Morgan Orton family, are related to me through marriage. Meredith Morgan and Ed Orton (my husband’s brother) met at UC Berkeley where Meredith was completing a PhD in chemistry and Ed was working on a chemistry post-doc. He led the way to the east coast, with a position at a pharmaceutical company. Meredith soon followed, as research scientist at a polymer manufacturer. They married in 1991. In 1993, Parker was born, followed in 1995, by sister Maggie—two energetic, engaged adults— two endearing, bright children.
TSF follows the Morgan Orton family from the mid-nineties to the present with photographs and an ongoing narration by its subjects. Amidst the quotidian of life—jobs, moves, school, family and friends—the book chronicles the wrenching and transformative experience of becoming a family that includes a severely disabled child and the enduring experience of living with all that brings.
My earliest photographs of the Morgan Orton family coincided with my first black and white darkroom photography class twenty-four years ago. Thankfully, as a new photographer exploring the medium, the four Morgan Ortons were willing subjects. This made it possible to refine my approach to the topic—family and their social engagement—that became an integral part of my artistic practice.
The four Morgan Ortons, jolted by a terrible disease, have shown love, persistence, courage, consistency and an infectious humor. Throughout the years they have not only received and acknowledged the warmth and support of neighbors, community, family, mental health professionals and educational institutions, but they have also contributed to the well-being of others in similar circumstances.