COURTENEY COOLIDGE is a social documentarian interested in exploring people's lives in order to better understand the world around her. The American Families photographer grew up during the 1970's and 1980's in a blended family (mom, stepfather, and three sisters, the youngest being a half sister). As a child, she often confronted the negative social stigma of having divorced parents in a world still devoted to the icon of the nuclear family. Today, Coolidge works as a documentary photographer based out of the San Francisco, California Bay area and has spent ten years developing an ongoing body of work devoted to examining the "social landscape" of families in the United States and abroad. Previous projects include a one year documentary on an immigrant Mexican family in eastern Washington; photographs of the aftermath of the refugee exodus from Rwanda; a chronicle of life in the mountain villages and monasteries of the Indian Himalayas, northern Pakistan and Chinese West Turkistan; and a portrait of Islamic families living on the East African island of Lamu, Kenya. Her work has been featured in numerous gallery exhibitions, magazines, and publications. In 2004 Coolidge's photographs were published in the acclaimed book series America 24/7.
"I am a firm believer that all children deserve to have positive family role models, and that by broadening the definition of 'family', we can create a foundation for all families to succeed regardless of their structure. Through the American Families exhibition and web site, I hope children and parents around the country will be able to point to a photograph and say 'This reminds me of my family or a friend or relative's family.' and to feel assured that they are an important part of our diverse society. Through art and exploration, I hope to develop a greater understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others in our communities."