Our cell phones have turned us all into photographers and we’re all inundated with countless photo images every day of our lives. But that shouldn’t keep us from taking the time to appreciate those gifted folks who make photography a special and meaningful visual art form.
FotoFocus, the month-long celebration of photography throughout our region, provides a unique opportunity to do just that. A case in point is the trio of exhibits that opened last weekend at The Contemporary Dayton gallery at the downtown Arcade.
The show focuses on some special destinations ranging from our own hometown to New York City. Visitors will also be transported to cities around the world including Zürich, Tripoli, Lagos, Seoul, Ypsilanti, Ubud and São Paulo.
Meet Teju Cole
The Co’s largest gallery space is showcasing the work of Boston-based writer/photographer Teju Cole, a professor of Creative Writing at Harvard and former photography critic of The New York Times Magazine. He’s also the author of the novel “Open City,” the novella “Every Day Is for the Thief” and the essay collection “Known and Strange Things.”
This show, entitled “Blind Spot,” is a poetic travelog, capturing Cole’s journeys around the world. The 34 photographs on display sit side-by-side with Cole’s personal reflections on each image. His prose may describe the place or trigger a memory.
When Cole came to town for the opening weekend of the exhibit, the gallery partnered with the University of Dayton to host a photography master class with 40 photography students from Central State University, Sinclair Community College, Stivers School for the Arts, UD and Wright State University.
The soft-spoken Cole immediately put the students at ease by telling them that the “master” at a master class is actually the student. “If your work is being discussed today, that’s already an achievement,” he assured them before interacting with each of them about their work.
Cole was awed, as was his audience, when Stivers’ junior Sanaa Averette expressed her belief that we often don’t appreciate the beauty of the people closest to us. For this reason, she focuses on photographing members of her own family in lovely settings to help others appreciate them as well.
“A serious photographer encourages us to slow down and see what is going on inside the photo,” Cole told the students.
Credit: THE CONTEMPORARY DAYTON
Credit: THE CONTEMPORARY DAYTON
A portrait of Dayton
Visitors to The Co’s middle galleries often recognize local people and places in Amy Lynn Powell’s new exhibit entitled “Only let people who love you photograph you”
It might be UD students on graduation day, Century Bar or Price Stores signage, or the outrageous Rubi Girls clowning around. It may be an infant asleep on his daddy’s chest or kids licking ice cream cones on a hot summery day.
Although Powell is best known as a photographer, for this exhibit she worked as a curator. After going through tens of thousands of Instagram photos that were tagged “Dayton, OH,” she selected and printed about 200 of them. Taken together, they provide a fascinating portrait of a city that could, in some ways, represent “any town” but is, in fact, our town.
Powell says she’s deeply fascinated with the images people make and proudly share and is not naive in thinking some people may not be happy with what she’s done.
“Ultimately it’s a project for the community,” Powell says. “I made every attempt to reach people not only to let them know what I was doing, but to also invite them to see and celebrate their image at the gallery. Some people didn’t respond. Some people didn’t want to be involved and I respected that. But most people were excited and happy to have their pictures selected. People want to be seen.”
She says the purpose of the show is to bring people into the art space who wouldn’t normally feel like they belong.
“Dayton is magical to me and the people here matter. When I first moved to Dayton 10 years ago I noticed right away the city had a low self-esteem. Everyone seemed to apologize when I told them I was new to the area and I didn’t understand why.”
Powell’s own work has been published nationally in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian.
Intimate New York
When we think of New York, we’re likely to think of a high-energy, pulsating city, always on the move. But videographer James “Jamie” Nares has slowed things down with “Street,” a captivating one hour video originally commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Originally produced in 2011, the film was projected nightly on the Met’s south-facing wall. Nares, a British artist living and working in New York, mounted a tripod on his car and drove through the streets of the city. After taking 16 hours of continuous footage, he then greatly slowed the scenes down.
“You see these small glimpses into people’s lives and how they interact with each other,” noted Trevor Montei, a Wright State photography student who was watching the film at The Co. last weekend.
HOW TO GO:
What: “Only let people who love you photograph you” by Amy Lynn Powell; “Blind Spot” by Teju Cole and “Street” by James Nares.
Where: The Contemporary Dayton, 25 W. Fourth Street in the Dayton Arcade
When: Through December 24. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays and First Fridays until 8 p.m.
For more information: See www.codayton.org or call 937-224.3822
Note: These Co. exhibits are part of the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial which will showcase photography in more than 100 spaces throughout our region during the month of October.
- You can watch Teju Cole’s artist talk on The Co’s website: www.codayton.org
- A free artist talk, “Amy Lynn Powell in conversation with Stacy Kranitz, will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 at the Gallery. Or watch live online at the gallery website.
- A virtual artist talk with James Nares will premiere live at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2.
- Cole’s exhibition is accompanied by the publication, “Blind Spot,” available in the gift shop at The Co. It sells for $40.
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