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Awkward Family Photos: Now in a Santa Monica Museum

Site founder Mike Bender likes having the exhibit at the California Heritage Museum: "The way it's set up, it's like you're walking through someone's house."
Site founder Mike Bender likes having the exhibit at the California Heritage Museum: "The way it's set up, it's like you're walking through someone's house."
Photo from Mike Bender

Even if you haven't visited Awkward Family Photos' website, or count yourself among its 1.6 million Facebook fans, chances are good you've seen some of its pictures - the site's images are perennially viral.

And now, Mike Bender and Doug Chernack, who created the site in May 2009, are presenting the photos in an exhibit at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica, which runs through July 27 and has an opening tonight from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

"We've always had this idea knocking around that we'd want to do an exhibition with the photos," Bender said in an interview. "For us it's always been a celebration of families, so to be able to bring it to families is great."

But why make it into a museum exhibit when all the pictures are available online? For Bender and Chernack, it's about the in-person experience.

"It emphasizes the fact that we're all awkward, and that we have all of this stuff in common with other families," Bender said. "When you see it laid out in a museum setting, it really hits that home."

Bender is also proud of the exhibit's picture frames, which are "awkward frames" from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. "The frames to me are almost as fun as the show," he said.

The site has successfully curated painfully funny family portraits.
The site has successfully curated painfully funny family portraits.
Photo from Awkward Family Photos

As far as which photos appear in the exhibit, he said, "We chose the photos that have received the biggest response on the site along with personal favorites and a few surprises as well. But we essentially chose the best of the best over the last five years."

See also: 30 Free Things to Do in L.A. Any Time

Admission to the museum is $8, while the site you can see for free. But as an extra incentive, for fans who want a more interactive experience, there's an option to take your own awkward family photo. Bender explained, "Part of the exhibit downstairs, all of the photos that people take in the booths are being push-pinned into the wall, so by the time we're done, it will hopefully cover the entire wall. So you'll become a part of the exhibit as well."

California Heritage Museum, 2612 Main St., Santa Monica; Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m; through July 27. (310) 392-8536, www.californiaheritagemuseum.org/awkward.html.


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