Foto Founders Exhibition for FotoFocus 2016

When asked to participate in the Photo Founders exhibition at the Behringer Crawford Museum as a part of [embed][/embed]

I initially thought that I would (of course) show new work. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked that idea. The concept of the show is to celebrate the work of the 5 founders of the university photography programs in the Cincinnati region. So I went into my archives and took a look, the first in a long time, at my Master of Fine Arts thesis photographs, with which I applied to the open position at the University of Cincinnati back in 1982. Since these were the pictures that got me the job that I remained in until recently, and since they had not been exhibited since 1983, I decided to show this work.

I wanted to see them up on the wall in order to reevaluate them, to see how they stand up over the test of time, to see what I can learn from my younger self when I was still figuring out my creative voice. Here are some of the images from that series, which was titled "Dancing on a Wall", and which were printed on Rockland Photo Aluminum:

Annie's Dream

Untitled #25

Dancing on a Wall


FotoFocus 2016 Exhibition Preparation

Photography is now an accepted part of a university curriculum, but that was not always the case. By the 1960's and 70's, the medium had firmly established itself in art and design programs around the US, including those at universities in the Cincinnati Tristate region. I was fortunate to be one of the early professors in the program at the University of Cincinnati, along with Jerry Stratton, who founded the program. The other photography program founders in the region are Cal Kowal at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Barry Andersen and Barbara Houghton at Northern Kentucky University. This year for FotoFocus 2016, Cincinnati's biannual festival of photography,


the Behringer Crawford Museum is hosting an exhibition of photographs by us 5 Photo Founders, and it has been fun trying to decide what work to put into the show. I finally decided to exhibit photographs from my Masters of Fine Arts thesis show, "Dancing on a Wall", which has not been shown since 1983. More on the work itself in a later post, but here are a few images showing the final framing of the work, which will be delivered to the museum later this week. The show opens on Friday, September 30.

Pulling the protective coating off of a plexiglas sheet

Fitting the top onto the rest of the frame

Interview Published in AEQAI

ÆQAI (pronounced ‘I’ as in ‘bite ‘ and ‘qai ‘ as in ‘sKY’ ) is a Cincinnati based e-journal for critical thinking, review and reflective prose on contemporary visual art. An interview titled "Jane Alden Stevens: Photography in Motion" authored by Laura A. Hobson was recently published in the November, 2014, edition of AEQAI. The article includes images from various bodies of work, a discussion about my teaching career, and covers a number of issues including the role that feminism played in my classroom, mentors, technical changes in the field and my approach to art-making.

Many thanks to editor Daniel Brown for including me in this issue!

Artists I Like- Vivian Maier

The Cincinnati Fotofocus Bienniel 2014 happened last month and I spent a considerable amount of time going to some of the exhibits that were up. Among the many that I liked, the show of Vivian Maier's work stood out for many finding-images-slide-OCW9-jumbo For those readers who are unfamiliar with her work, Maier was a nanny who worked primarily for families in Chicago. She was also a passionate photographer who would frequently go out into the streets with her Rolleiflex. She was a complete unknown until after she died in 2009, when her boxes of negatives were bought at auction and the images brought to the attention of others via exposure on the internet.


vivian_20Roberta Smith, in a NY Times review wrote that Maier's work "may add to the history of 20th-century street photography by summing it up with an almost encyclopedic thoroughness, veering close to just about every well-known photographer you can think of, including Weegee, Robert Frank and Richard Avedon, and then sliding off in another direction. Yet they maintain a distinctive element of calm, a clarity of composition and a gentleness characterized by a lack of sudden movement or extreme emotion."

Those sentiments sum up exactly what I was thinking when I saw this show. But I also couldn't help thinking how unique this exhibit was, in that the artist herself had no hand in it. The prints were not made by Maier, nor were they made under her supervision. The curator chose the images, the mats, and the frames, and specified in what order they would appear. It's rare that an exhibit happens under these kinds of circumstances, where the hand of the artist appears solely at the front end of the creative process.elle-vivian-maier-street-photography-8-de (As an aside, E. J. Bellocq's Storyville Portraits series and Eugene Atget's  photographs of turn-of-the-century Paris come to mind as other examples of this relatively rare phenomenon.)

In Maier's case, I couldn't help wondering if these images would have been those that the artist herself would have chosen to show us. What would she have picked instead? What themes would she have emphasized? As it was, the show was heavy on self-portraits and photographs of wealthy women in urban settings. It was fascinating to feel that Maier was not judging these women (ala Weegee), but rather observing them and presenting them to us for our own interpretation. I also vivian-maier-selfdidn't feel that she was comparing herself to them directly, although the juxtaposition of seeing her in the self-portraits with these other women led the viewer in that direction.

The exhibit was very powerful and moving, and I spent a lot of time there thinking once again about the role that editing plays in creating meaning in artwork.


Exhibition Review- Cincinnati Enquirer

Nice to see that the media in town is still interested in photography after FotoFocus ended. Click here to read a review of the "Landscapes of the Mind" show that appeared in last Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer. My work is mentioned towards the end.

Since the writer referred to "Red Inner Bag #1, Fall, Aomori Prefecture" but didn't print it, here it is:

The Value of FotoFocus

I was on a panel at Xavier University last week that had as it's topic "The Future of Photography". Towards the end, we were asked what we thought the value of the  FotoFocus biennial has been. My answer to that is: It made so many people in this region aware of photography as a creative medium.

It pointed out the many different ways in which people approach this medium and proved that a photograph can be so much more than just a recording of something in front of the lens.

It introduced photographers to each other who otherwise wouldn't have met.

It provided networking opportunities to photographers, students, and others who love the medium.

Finally, it made photography important in a way that a million photos posted on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media sites can't.

Kudos and many thanks to Tom Schiff, Cincinnati Art Museum Chief Curator James Crump, and their team of sponsors, supporters, and workers for the fantastic job they did at making FotoFocus be such a success.


FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #3

Here are two more FotoFocus shows that I found memorable: "The Evolution of Photo Bookmaking" at the Mercantile Library downtown. This show, curated by author and artist Nancy Howell-Koehler, was a look at the art of the photographic artist's book from the 1970's-2012. It included books that were both commercially and hand-bound, and which ranged from serious to humorous in content. Books by Bea Nettles, Les Krims, Diana Duncan Holmes and Timothy Riordan, Cal Kowal, Nancy Rexroth and Duane Michals were on view, along with those of many others.

Part of what made this show so great was that it was housed in the Mercantile Library. The books were, for the most part, laid out on tables in the center of the library, which made them both accessible and secure.

The walls of the space were of course lined with library books, which made me feel like the exhibition was right at home. Viewers could page through almost all of the books themselves, which does not always happen at artist's books exhibitions.  A real treat!




Another exhibition that was the perfect marriage of location and art was "Light Castings" at Voltage Gallery. Located on the second floor of a contemporary furniture store, this gallery featured photographic installations by Jordan Tate and Anthony Pearson. Although their work is very different, both artists pose questions about the role that reproducible processes play in today's world. Because of this, their work coexisted comfortably throughout the space.


Although a wall separates the gallery space from the store, having to pass through part of the store in order to get to the exhibition set the viewer up for a certain kind of visual experience that did not disappoint.

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #2 (Sheilah Wilson)

Another show that made a big impression on me during FotoFocus was "Sheilah Wilson: If Becoming This" at the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. This exhibit contained a variety of work by the Nova Scotia native, who currently teaches at Denison University. She states that her "...photographic, video, social practice and performance work is interested in narrative and how to create ruptures in our understandings of narrative." That perfectly describes the work in this show. To that, I would add that she is interested in how history and memory are intertwined. One example of that is  "The Invisible Inside the Visible". This piece consists of one photograph, a written piece, and a sound recording. The large aerial color photograph  shows a bit of ocean, the shoreline, and a piece of farmland that has meandering white lines (cow paths) through it. The eye is drawn to another white line, this one a large, regular oval that disappears as it gets close to the shore. This is what remains of a racetrack that used to be there. The written wall plaque explains how Wilson found the racetrack, and on the sound recording, you can hear the voices of  the locals who are describing how she could find it. The combination of sound, writing, and visual evidence compels the viewer to think about the shifting nature of memory, and of how the land itself can be a powerful repository of memory.

Another piece, made for the series "You Are My Favorite Photograph", was the result of a performance that Wilson did when the show opened. Viewers wrote down a significant memory on a piece of paper. Wilson then laid down a piece of traditional light-sensitive photographic paper onto a bed she had installed in the gallery, put the written sheet under it, and slept on them overnight. (Multiple prints from this series are seen below.)

The resulting crinkly print, when developed, revealed mysterious shades and streaks of black, gray and white, which suggest the nebulous nature of memory itself.

I could write far more about other works in this show that were entirely different than the ones described above and just as powerful, but suffice it to say that the work of Sheilah Wilson is inventive, thought-provoking, and entirely alive.

The show is up at the Herndon Gallery until November 16. Go if you can!

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #1

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.

"Landscapes of the Mind" Show Opening

The final show that I have up during Fotofocus Cincinnati is "Landscapes of the Mind", which opened last Friday at the YWCA Women's Gallery on Walnut Street. Curated by Judi Parks, it is a look at how metaphor and symbolism has expressed itself through the photographs of Nancy Rexroth, Judi, and me. The show is up until January 10, 2013.

Both Nancy and I presented work that was culled from projects that had been thought complete. In her case, she went back into her negative archives that had resulted in her book "Iowa". Printed in the late '70's, "Iowa" became a defining body of work for anyone working with simple lenses or toy cameras. It legitimized them as a serious tool for the photographic artist. For the YWCA show, Nancy took another look at what she had shot back then, and presented a series of images that shed new light on that series.

In my case, I exhibited work that took a completely new look at what I had shot while in Japan a few years ago to photograph the process of apple growing in Aomori Prefecture. Rather than focusing on the process itself (as I had originally done when choosing the pictures of the "Seeking Perfection" series), I this time focused on the impact that the process had on the land and trees themselves. Amazing what you can discover about yourself and your work when you take another look.

"Photographers X Photographers" Opening

The opening for the "Photographers X Photographers" show at the A.B Cohen Art Center at Xavier University was last evening and it was packed! Connie Sullivan had a show of some of her smaller light boxes in one gallery, while the "P. X P." show was in the larger space. It was fascinating to see how each photographer approached the task of making a portrait of another photographer. While I didn't know all the photographers who participated, I knew enough of them to appreciate that so many of these portraits perfectly reflect both the maker and their subjects. I found myself thinking, "I'd love to be photographed by the person who took that picture." many times over throughout the event.

Gallery hours are Mon. - Fri., from 10:00am-4:00pm. The show is up through October 26.

Show Opening

I had an amazing time at the opening of the show at the Phyllis Weston Gallery this past Friday. Lots of people in and out all evening, and one of my pieces sold. My work is being shown together with that of Connie Sullivan, Devin Stoddard, and Kent Krugh. Although our photographs are very different from each other technically, they all work really well together, I think. The show is up until October 31. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-5:00pm. 2005 1/2 Madison Road in Cincinnati. Check it out!

FotoFocus Cincinnati

The first wave of openings for Fotofocus Cincinnati began last night, and what a buzz! The crowds were great and the work was better. All the Cincinnati newspapers and magazines are filled with articles about the 70+ shows that will be up in October. Also yesterday, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran this article about the three shows I have work in for Fotofocus. I delivered the "Secrets the Land Told Me" show to the YWCA Women's Gallery two days ago, so all the work is now in place- let the openings begin!

Final Edit- Finally!

I've completed the final editing for the show that will be at the YWCA Gallery in Cincinnati in October as part of the Fotofocus Cincinnati photography festival. I was at an impasse until I went to the gallery and was able to see for myself the layout and lighting of the space. Once I did, the final edit just fell into place. I'm once again struck by the difference between seeing something in real life, or experiencing it through other means, like in a photograph, a map, or the written word. Prior to that visit, I had had a map of the space and had tried to imagine the work there, which worked to a degree. But it was totally different to actually stand in the space, absorbing its ambiance, sounds, and look.

This was the same kind of experience I had had once in an art history class, when we were looking at The Hunters in the Snow (Winter) (see below), by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, initially in books and then via projected images. Then later we went to a museum, where we saw his works in the flesh. It was like night and day.

Always opt for the real thing, whenever possible!

The Hunters in the Snow (Winter)

The Process of Editing

I was invited by photographer/curator Judi Parks to take part in an exhibition at the YWCA Women's Gallery that will be part of Fotofocus Cincinnati biennial this October. While choosing the images that will go into the show, I have sent Judi various options to show her what I've been thinking along the way. She responds via e-mail, I print them out, and tape her comments onto work prints so I can keep her feedback in mind as I progress in making my decisions. Here are some examples:



Whether we agree or disagree, it's been extremely helpful to do this. It creates a dialog in my head that helps me to figure out where I want to go with this.

Current Work-in-Progress

Although the Seeking Perfection project is presented on my website as if it were complete, I am currently in the midst of re-thinking and re-editing it. The first edit, the one that can be seen on the site, revolved around the process of traditional apple-growing in Japan, showing the tools and the steps involved over the course of the growing season. This new edit is focusing on the visible effects that this process has on the land, the trees, and the apples. Some images from the first edit are showing up in the second, while others are now being included that I never would have considered before.

I've never re-thought a project like this before, and am fascinated to be discovering things in the work that just hadn't been apparent to me prior to this. The new edit will be shown in an exhibit that will be part of Fotofocus Cincinnati in October, 2012.