“Mom” at the Hilltop Restaurant in Athens, OH 04/10/69. One of the photos featured in Stuart’s ‘The Picture Page’ exhibition. (Submitted)

The Picture Page: Portraits of SEO from 1966-1971 at Stuart’s

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Stuart’s Opera House hosts our Monthly Happy Hour along with a special opening for our new photo exhibit on Wednesday, June 27 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Picture Page: Portraits of Southeast Ohio from 1966-1971 is presented and curated by the Southeast Ohio History Center! The show features work from three photographers: Jon Webb, Bob Rogers, and Ken Steinhoff, all of whom worked with the Athens Messenger during 1966-1971. Opening night will serve as the Stuart’s Opera House Monthly Happy Hour for June! Come see the show and stick around for drinks and good conversation! We will have a full cash bar along with a drink special or two, and there will also be coffee, tea, and soft drinks. The show will remain up through August 24.

From Jessica Cyders, Curator/Assistant Director of the Southeast Ohio History Center: In 1966, Jon Webb was a young photographer working at Ohio University. A native of Logan, Ohio, he recognized that the region he grew up in was changing, and he wanted to document the people and the communities of our region in transition. However, it wasn’t until he met Kenner Bush, publisher of the Athens Messenger, that he found an outlet for his work. Jon pitched the concept of a daily feature called the Picture Page, a 9×17 inch section of the newspaper dedicated to photography. Jon proposed to run a photographic essay containing three to five images, five days a week for at least one year. His would focus on ordinary people and ordinary places in the region, and he had complete artistic freedom. More significantly, Kenner agreed to let Jon retain the copyright to his images, and the original negatives.

From 1966 to 1968, Jon ranged across the region, eventually taking more than 40,000 images of Southeast Ohio. Although his collection contains images of important events, like John Glenn’s visit to Athens and early Vietnam protests, as well as well-known people, like Paul Newman, David Hostetler, and Ray Charles, his collection is more significant because his focus was on everyday life in the region: coal miners working in Vinton County, families in Haydenville, Melvin Dunfee’s store in Stewart, and mourners at the funeral of an airman killed in Vietnam. His photographs are stark, moving, and deeply personal.

In 1968, Jon hired a young photographer from West Virginia to help him with the Picture Page. Bob Rogers had contacted him to see if he could emulate the Picture Page in Huntington. When he arrived for lunch, he was surprised to find that Jon had brought with him Kenner Bush and a job offer!

Jon left the Athens Messenger for the Louisville Courier Journal in the summer of 1968. When Jon left, Bob hired Ken Steinhoff. Together, they continued Jon’s vision of documenting the region, photographing ordinary people doing ordinary things. Combined, these collections contain more than 100,000 images of Southeast Ohio. They are a beautiful portrait of a region in transition.