The Frailty Project


The Frailty Project informally began as a mental note of demographics in the passport photo business. Relative to the representation of Canadian ethnic minority customers, the number of young white children seemed disproportionately high. Over the 14 months and hundreds—perhaps thousands—of passport photos I'd taken for customers during that period, I always wondered why this was.

Though an internationalist (ie, travel) attitude is to be expected from newly-arrived immigrants, it surprised me to find caucasian and multi-generational Canadians dominating the travelling class of children and infants. Upon reflection, this is no surprise: racial, generational, and educational disparity will economically-favor the ability of white Canadians to travel at their leisure.

The series is photographed in the manner of passport photographs, rigidly adhering to the government specifications laid forth and is therefore of two subjects:

• The first, an examination of how class and race inform the ability of westerners, old and new, to travel abroad; and

• The second, their expressions: Though required for admittance into, or departure from, our countries, it nevertheless struck me how frequently parents lamented that their children were not allowed to smile. Despite an officially-neutral portrayal, their parents' comments frequently revealed personal insecurities about their children's performative happiness. Children, outside the flaring volatility of their young emotions, are expected to put smiles on for the satisfaction of their parents. A casual examination of parental oversight immediately recognizes this as taught-and-learned behaviour. So I've wondered: what a relief for them it might be to relax their highly-policed facial muscles? 

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