A photograph by Cleveland, OH based photographer Greg Martin that is a part of the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s newly unveiled photography exhibition. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)

DACO’s First Photography Exhibition Examines the Contemporary Eye

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On September 9, the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio (DACO) unveiled their very first photography exhibition, entitled In Our Own Image: the Genesis of Photography and the Contemporary Eye. The two-part exhibition examines the development of photography starting in the 19th century through the modern day, as well as the continual use of those antique technologies in modern art photography. The exhibition will be on display through December 31.

“In the development of photography as we have come to know it, we tend to think of (Louis-Jacques-Mandé) Daguerre (creator of the daguerreotype process of photography) being the individual most responsible for photography today – but just like everything else, (contemporary photography) stems from not just one source,” said Scott Ferris, one of the curators of the exhibition, focusing on photography prior to 1900. Ferris is also a specialist in American Civil War artifacts, including the photography of that period. “A lot of things led up to the development of the daguerreotype – and its popularity only lasted for a few decades before photographic processes with quicker means of development superseded it.”

A viewer walks through the gallery at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)
A viewer walks through the gallery at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)

Ferris’ portion of the exhibition is wide in scope, featuring numerous daguerreotypes, as well as tintype and ambrotypes –focusing on the way in which photographic composition and portraiture developed.

Arnold Tunstall, the director of University Galleries at the University of Akron’s Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, also served as a curator for DACO’s latest exhibition, working on the more modern end of the work displayed.

A contemporary photo taken with antique technology. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)
Photographs taken by artist Keliy Anderson Staley. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)

“I have always been interested in contemporary artists who use vintage or older techniques,” said Tunstall. “When I was asked to curate the exhibition, I was happy to indulge that interest of mine, as it’s something that I had been thinking about anyway.”

Work by Ohio-based photographer Francis Schanberger. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)
Work by Ohio-based photographer Francis Schanberger. (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)

“The Decorative Arts Center itself is a lovely old home, and they usually have decorative arts on display there, so I’m excited to see the contemporary portion of the exhibition on display there,” said Tunstall. “I wanted the portion of the exhibition that I worked on to include photographers who are thinking about the photograph as an object, not just something that gets printed off of a computer screen.”

Photographer Stephen Takacs will be providing a particularly exciting component to the exhibition: a full-sized interpretation of a working 19th century photography studio.

Artist Stephen Takacs' reimagining of an early photographic "operating room." (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)
Artist Stephen Takacs’ reimagining of an early photographic “operating room.” (WOUB/Margaret Sabec)

“I have created a sort of reimagining of an early photography studio through this kind of medical aesthetic – interestingly enough, in my research I found that those early studios actually were called ‘operating rooms,’ since photographers were called ‘camera operators,’” said Takacs. “It all kind of connects to an ongoing project that I started a couple of years ago, when I found an antique camera. It had no purpose, it wasn’t working anymore and was missing some pieces. I started to strip it down and add these different components to it – I kind of Frankenstein-ed it together on a doctor’s exam table and began to use it to shoot photographs. That served as a major component in the installation (at DACO).”

Takacs will be taking antique style photographs in the exhibition 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 30; November 11; November 18, and December 16. A pinhole camera class will also be taught 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. November 4; November 11; and November 18. A special presentation on photographic landscapes here in Ohio will take place on December 10 at 2 p.m.

The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio is located in the Reese-Peters House in historic downtown Lancaster. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.