Jane Reece: Dayton’s most important artist and photographer

Jane Reece has been described by Dayton Art Institute officials as Dayton’s most important artist and photographer of any generation.

Her work attracted international recognition. Photographs of Helen Keller and the poet Robert Frost were among portraits in her portfolio.

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A self-taught photographer, Reece worked in a style called Pictorialism, which was popular toward the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century.

“I don’t photograph. I use my camera as an artist uses his brush – to make the picture I already see in my mind,” she told the Monterrey Peninsula Herald in 1945.

It was unusual for women to follow a career path in the arts at the turn of the century, and female photographers were especially rare, according to a Dayton Art Institute narrative published in conjunction with a 1997 museum exhibition “The Soul Unbound: The Photographs of Jane Reece.”

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Her photographic style depicts people and scenes in dreamy lighting and soft focus, and it was part of a larger movement known as Photo-Secession, which sought to promote photography as a fine art.

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In 1952 she donated more than 9,000 negatives and 400 photographic works to the Dayton Art Institute, the largest body of her work anywhere.

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