Beginning January 18 ICCF will offer an exhibit of black and white photos by Bill Franson.
The series of 23 images documents his family’s adoption of a child from Russia.
Taken over a period of seven years, the prints on exhibition, from an edition of 20,
are fiber-based gelatin silver with an image area of 12”x18” over-matted and framed to 18”x24”.
The exhibit is on loan from Calvin College and can be viewed Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm.
Sadly enough, a recent political decision has halted adoptions by American parents.
Introduction by the artist:
A Nickel and a Kopek
Five cents American and a Russian penny, two bright tokens,
change in a vast world
Initially, little planning went into preparation to photographically document our adoption of a
child from St. Petersburg, Russia. Frankly, all the work went into preparing to adopt him. I had
never been presented with so much documentation to have notarized, apostilled, to file, and had
so many fees to pay. It was a dauntingly officious process, which ironically was initiated through
a simple heart-felt desire. We chose to add to our family (we have a biological son) for personal
reasons, chose Europe for ancestral, and St. Petersburg for cultural ones. In August 2001 we
were offered a three-year-old child at a state orphanage in the historic Vasileostrovkij district of
St. Petersburg and were sent a short video of him rocking on a wooden horse. In the background
one could hear an orphanage caregiver encouraging him to say hello to the camera, hello to
momma and papa. The child spoke haltingly and I could not take my eye off the tear in his. I was
floored. Flying to Russia to meet him and bring him home two months after September 11th
impressed upon me the importance of making each fleeting moment count.
This project was conceived out of a curiosity about the life of this one child and quickly
developed into a project about two. Personal loss is an immutable fact grounding any adoption
story. It is cause for both concern and speculation. And yet, I could not look at one child without
looking at the other, seeing one bright promise rubbing against another. A Nickel and a Kopek is
a parent’s personal testament, offered without apology. It is a project however, where I have
attempted to balance the motives of an observer with those of a participant, seeking the
universal in the particular.
The images for this exhibit were taken over a seven-year period. The passage of time offers a
narrative factor in any long-term project. I have avoided annual milestones and focused on the
everyday, the seemingly uneventful. Time spent, time invested, looking.