Forest From a Tree

At the age of five, my mother told me I was adopted as we walked hand-in-hand in the warmth of a sunny summer day. A moment of confusion, comforted by the soft, loving voice of my mom, Paula. Since then, I wondered who my birth family was—not for wanting to replace the parents who adopted me but because of a curiosity that could only be satisfied by finding the people I share a biological connection with. For many years, information was pieced together from stories told at family get-togethers, as well as adoption documents found while snooping through my father’s office desk. 

My search came up with few answers until 2010 when it was sparked by a change to Illinois’ adoption laws—which I was made aware of by a cousin who brought a newspaper clipping to a family gathering. In late 2011 the new law went into effect, allowing adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate with identifying information. Along with this, access to online DNA services has helped me find biological family members that may have been impossible to find otherwise. To this day, I continue to find more information, revealing who I am and who my family is.  

My family’s adoption story is told by bringing together original photographs, family archives, and important documents. This is done through relating images to specific stories, as well as touching on themes of family, identity, memory, and loss. By connecting the pieces of my story, I implore viewers to think about their own definition of family, and how we connect to those around us.

 

(Click on each image for a story. Scroll on text to read more when applicable.)

 

Brian Garbrecht - Youre Adopted 2020. Digital Photograph.
"You're Adopted" 2020. Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - Hinsdale 2020. Family Archive and Documents Collaged onto Map.
"Hinsdale" 2020. Family Archive and Documents Collaged onto Map.
Brian Garbrecht - Lakewood Restaurant 2019. Scanned Negative.
"Lakewood Restaurant" 2019. Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - First (Day) Home 2020. Family Archive atop Digital Photograph.
"First (Day) Home" 2020. Family Archive atop Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - Weve Adopted Someone Special 2021. Greeting Card on Family Archive.
"We've Adopted Someone Special" 2021. Greeting Card on Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Uncertainty 2020. Digital Photograph of Family Archive.
"Uncertainty" 2020. Digital Photograph of Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Marissa 2020. Darkroom Filter on Family Archive.
"Marissa" 2020. Darkroom Filter on Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Ms. Marek 2019. Scanned Negative.
"Ms. Marek" 2019. Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - Baptism 2019. Digital Photograph.
"Baptism" 2019. Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - Dads Desk 2021. Digital Photograph.
"Dad's Desk" 2021. Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - Television 2021. Digital Photograph.
"Television" 2021. Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - 9th Grade 2019. Family Archive.
"9th Grade" 2019. Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Dante 2021. Family Archive, Graphite on Paper.
"Dante" 2021. Family Archive, Graphite on Paper.
Brian Garbrecht - Sequence 2021. Family Archive with Digital DNA Sequence.
"Sequence" 2021. Family Archive with Digital DNA Sequence.
Brian Garbrecht - Springfield 2020. Mixed Collage.
"Springfield" 2020. Mixed Collage.
Brian Garbrecht - The Law Office of John Cerveny 2020. Scanned Negative.
"The Law Office of John Cerveny" 2020. Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - Home In the Womb. Home I Never Knew 2020. Scanned Negative and Birth Certificate on Paper.
"Home In the Womb. Home I Never Knew" 2020. Scanned Negative and Birth Certificate on Paper.
Brian Garbrecht - Debbies Notes 2021. Handwritten Notes and Family Archive.
"Debbie's Notes" 2021. Handwritten Notes and Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Internet History 2020. Digital Photograph.
"Internet History" 2020. Digital Photograph.
Brian Garbrecht - Debbies Friend 2020. Mixed Collage.
"Debbie's Friend" 2020. Mixed Collage.
Brian Garbrecht - Father, Son 2019. Family Archive and Scanned Negative.
"Father, Son" 2019. Family Archive and Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - Love, John 2020. Screen Printed Photograph on Handwritten Letter.
"Love, John" 2020. Screen Printed Photograph on Handwritten Letter.
Brian Garbrecht - Pineapple Cookies 2021. Screen Printed Photograph on Handwritten Recipe.
"Pineapple Cookies" 2021. Screen Printed Photograph on Handwritten Recipe.
Brian Garbrecht - I Love You Alot Mom <3 2019. Scanned Negative and Handwritten Note.
"I Love You Alot Mom <3" 2019. Scanned Negative and Handwritten Note.
Brian Garbrecht - Johnny Boy 2020. Layered Family Archive.
"Johnny Boy" 2020. Layered Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - Ode to Mom 2020. Layered Family Archive on Paper.
"Ode to Mom" 2020. Layered Family Archive on Paper.
Brian Garbrecht - For Better or Worse 2020. Family Archive on Newspaper Clipping and Wedding Program.
"For Better or Worse" 2020. Family Archive on Newspaper Clipping and Wedding Program.
Brian Garbrecht - At What Point Do Things Become Clear? 2019. Family Archive and Scanned Negative.
"At What Point Do Things Become Clear?" 2019. Family Archive and Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - Deborah Cerveny 1963-2014 2019. Family Archive atop Scanned Negative.
"Deborah Cerveny 1963-2014" 2019. Family Archive atop Scanned Negative.
Brian Garbrecht - Grandpa David 2020. Polaroid Photographs on Map.
"Grandpa David" 2020. Polaroid Photographs on Map.
Brian Garbrecht - Texting (Brother) 2021. Text Message Screenshot
"Texting (Brother)" 2021. Text Message Screenshot
Brian Garbrecht - Paternal Family Photo 2021. Photoshopped Family Archive.
"Paternal Family Photo" 2021. Photoshopped Family Archive.
Brian Garbrecht - In Bloom 2020. Family Archive atop Scanned Negative.
"In Bloom" 2020. Family Archive atop Scanned Negative.
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