by Brittany Law
I’m not an artist. I can’t even take a decent picture for Instagram. I am clueless about photography, but as a writer I know a great deal about setting a scene, and Stephen Takacs’ Brownie in Motion gallery is quite the scene. Upon walking into the Cultural Arts Center, the surreal images of the camera obscura evoke a sense of wonder. The camera obscura has a personality that easily caught my attention and drew me into the images; then, as I ventured further into the gallery, I was confronted with the camera obscura, and I was truly a part of this surreal exhibit. The photographs that lined the walls were those taken with the camera obscura, and I was enveloped by this world Stephen created. Compared to the vibrant and surreal digital photographs visible upon entering, the black and white photographs surrounding me then seemed grounded, as if they were bringing me back to earth. They evoke this feeling of nostalgia, despite being taken in the last couple of years. I had to periodically remind myself that I was not looking into the distant past.
The portraits in particular caught my attention more than anything else. One that I particularly enjoyed was Sue Cavanaugh: Fiber Artist. On first glance, the image feels regal, this stern woman looking down on me. But the longer I look at her the more I see in her. Through her sunglasses I can see half-closed eyes; she is not looking on with contempt, she seems exhausted, like a woman who has done what was hard and now just needs to rest. The corner of her mouth had a slight upturn, suggesting that what I first thought was a scowl were just the signs of a long life playing across her face. She is not a queen looking down on her subjects with derision, she is a mother looking on to her children, appreciating the work she has done.
The portrait Big Mike: Ropemaker really grabbed my attention as well. When I saw the photo, I was both humored and impressed by Big Mike. He is definitely large in stature, but the emotional presence he evokes is large as well. His face is stoic. From his size to his facial hair to the rope he works with, Big Mike is masculine. Not only that, but he is a particular kind of man. Big Mike represents a standard of masculinity that is disappearing. The image that men must be big, strong, and unfeeling is fading from our collective consciousness, and with it so is Big Mike.
As I left the gallery I admired once more the individuals, practices, and ideals that are disappearing from our world. I looked again into the fading world of the camera obscura before reentering the vibrant reality of the digital photographs, and I left the gallery wondering how long before my way of doing things would die out as well.
Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show is on view at the Columbus Cultural Art Center until March 19th, 2016.
Hours: Friday & Saturday 9am – 4pm
139 West Main Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
Beginning Photography students at Otterbein University had a truly special opportunity when Stephen Takacs brought his Brownie In Motion project to the Art Department in September. Students learned about the camera obscura in a photo history lecture earlier in the semester, but being able participate in the magic in person was an unparalleled experiential learning opportunity that will not soon be forgotten. Students were excitedly able to walk inside of Takacs’ room sized camera and see the scene outside of the lens projected onto a screen. They were then able to be part of the development process and assist in making the class portrait. Additionally, students were inspired to consider an expanded notion of photography, one that engages with the camera as an art object itself and promotes collaboration between artist and sitter.
Amanda Le Kline graduated from The Ohio State University with her Master of Fine Arts in 2014, and currently teaches at Otterbein University. Her work combines the mediums of photography, video, sculpture, and performance, and her research interests come from the fields of anthropology, mythology, and women & gender studies.
Hello everyone out there in cyber space,
If you’re tired of just seeing images of Brownie In Motion online and want to experience it in person, please come to the Columbus Arts Festival this weekend! I’ll be sharing the camera obscura with visitors from 11am – 9pm on Friday & Saturday and 11am – 5pm on Sunday.
If you’re in the neighborhood, I’d like to encourage you to come across the river to 400 West Rich for artist open studios starting on Friday from 7pm – 11pm and Saturday from 11am – 6pm. Although, I won’t be able to be able to participate in open studios this year (since I’ll be at the arts festival) I do want to encourage everyone to check out the work of some of my friends and explore the building where I spend so much of my time creating!
FYI – If you’re feeling really adventurous, the World Naked Bike Ride will be happening on Saturday evening starting from 400 West Rich around 9:30pm.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Reader of this blog may be wondering, “What happened to the Brownie In Motion team? Why did the story leave off so suddenly? Where are Micah, Steve and the world’s largest Brownie camera..?
I truly must apologize to you. I left you hanging and for that I’m very, very sorry. The journey is far from over! Please let me explain.
What happened was that I returned to Columbus. I returned to take advantage of the opportunity to teach my dream class – Alternative Camera Systems – at The Ohio State University!
It was a very busy but very rewarding semester! During this upper-level photography course, undergraduate and graduate students explored an a-typical amalgam of photographic systems, including pinhole cameras, plastic lens cameras, peel apart film and a variety of DIY tricks. Though the class officially ended in mid December, our experience will culminate in an exhibition titled, ‘The Great Camera Build Off.’
The Great Camera Build Off opens this Friday, January 9th at EASE Gallery in Columbus, Ohio and features photographs and handmade cameras created by OSU students.
Every artist participating in The Great Camera Build Off was tasked with creating a new camera using a piece of obsolete equipment that Bob Hite (the OSU photo lab manager) and I collected from dusty nooks, forgotten boxes and rarely touched cabinets at OSU and my own personal collection. The resulting exhibition features both the handmade cameras (many of which are quite sculptural) and the images produced by each.
Although all of the cameras and images were created using analog (ie. film-based) materials, the output varies and includes digital inkjet prints, as well as those made in the darkroom.
The Great Camera Build Off opens Friday, January 9th at EASE Gallery and runs until February 7th. If you’re local, please come to the opening reception tomorrow from 7-9 to say hello, meet the student artists and enjoy food and drink on us!
30 W. Woodruff
Columbus, OH 43210
The Brownie In Motion team will return to regularly scheduled postings very soon. Thank you for sticking with us!
We’ll start with the Brownie…
The Brownie was a very successful and influential line of cameras introduced by Kodak starting in 1900. It maintained great commercial success through the 50’s and 60’s and changed photography from a highly complicated craft into something you can take on a family vacation.
My friend, Stephen Takacs has built a 17x scale model of the Brownie that makes giant prints on analog photo paper. Stephen’s Brownie also functions as a darkroom, interactive installation and a sweat lodge (depending on the weather.) We will be taking this giant camera across the country this summer and working on a project we call “Brownie In Motion.” The concept behind this trip is to find and photograph craftsman whose skills might otherwise be forgotten. This documentary / performance project seeks to raise awareness about disappearing crafts to perhaps build interest in these dying trades.
By the way my name is Micah, I’ll be writing about the journey as well as co-piloting while we take the Brownie out west. I am an aspiring chef, writer, and traveler. So when Stephen came to me with this idea it took me two days to decide to quit my job and leave Philadelphia to be part of this adventure.
It has been a fine summer rustling up support for the project, fine tuning the Brownie, and planning for the journey. We will be merrily bounding forward into a relatively hazy and unpredictable few weeks with our launch date of July 17th.
We are starting with a giant camera, a truck, two dudes, and enough gear to keep us alive for a month of driving across America. This is the recipe, but otherwise we’ll be making this up as we go. Camping and pleading with those we know (and some we don’t) to keep a roof over our heads while we speed towards our destination. Our destination you ask? Well, I don’t think we have one in mind, merely a vague idea of a lot of places to see, and people to meet with our lovely traveling companion, Brownie In Motion.
So dear followers, we will keep you updated of our adventures, mishaps, and skews from everyday life on the road. In an attempt to preserve, that might otherwise be forgotten, we forge forward into uncertainty.
– Micah C –
A huge thank you goes out to my friend and OSU STEAM Factory colleague Roman Holowinsky. I’m not only thankful for his generous donation to the Brownie In Motion campaign but also for his ongoing enthusiasm, and encouragement. Without Roman’s sense of long-term vision, neither the OSU STEAM Factory nor the Brownie In Motion project would exist as we know them today.
For those of you not familiar with The Steam Factory, our purpose is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration in the OSU community across the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. To disseminate research, technology and pedagogy through public interaction and to create new ways in which our work can impact a broader audience. Brownie In Motion was actually constructed with budgetary support from an Outreach and Engagement Grant that the STEAM Factory wrote together.
It’s not too late to contribute to the indiegogo campaign! There are 8 hours left so quickly click your way over to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/brownie-in-motion/contributions/new and donate now!