Of the over 70 photography exhibitions being shown in Cincinnati and surrounding regions this month, I've been able to see a little over two dozen. Not nearly enough! But with only 24 hours in the day, that's all I've been able to manage. Here is one up in Dayton that I found memorable: "Emmet Gowin and His Contemporaries", at the Dayton Art Institute. Housed in the wide hallways of the lower level of the DAI, viewers first encounter the work of Gowin's influences and contemporaries, including Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Minor White, and others who formed the canon of great, primarily white male photographers of the mid-to-late 20th century. (It should be noted that the work of two women, Linda Connor and Olivia Parker, was also included.)
The first hallway curved around to reveal the work of Gowin himself. One wall had pictures he took of his family during the years they were in Dayton (1967-71). This body of work was one of the first to legitimize one's personal life and family as a legitimate source for subject matter by serious photographers. It paved the way for the work of later photographers such as Bea Nettles and Sally Mann.
The other wall included other types of images Gowin had taken during the Dayton years. This wall also held prints by his DAI students, which was totally unexpected, and which were fascinating in terms of trying to see how much Gowin's style had influenced that of his students.
Just beyond the final images in the hallway, one could watch a moving 20 minute documentary film that included interviews with Gowin and his wife Edith. Made just for this show, it confirmed the impression one gets from his photographs that Gowin is a deeply caring, compassionate person.
Anyone seeking to understand the major impulses of photography in the mid-to-late 20th century, and who wants to learn more about Gowin's work in particular, would not go away from this show disappointed.
Kudos to curator Tracy Longley-Cook who drew all the various threads of the show together to create a powerfully felt experience.