TJ Hanson has been working on a daily photography blog project for over a month now. Last week, he came by my studio at 400 West Rich Street to hang out and shoot some pictures of me at work. The beautifully lit images were captured on Fuji instant film using a Bronica with an old Polaroid back.
Stephen Tackacs in his studio. 1/60 @ f/8 ISO 100. Shot on Fuji FP100C instant film with a Bronica SQ-A body with a polaroid back and a Bronica 150mm f/3.5 lens.
Meet Stephen Tackacs. This guy is one of the true artist/photographer/educators in Columbus, Ohio. He is the creator of the Brownie in Motion Camera Obscura- it is a camera the size of a room. Using analog techniques, he has traveled to different parts the country capturing people with rare and disappearing occupations using this room-size capture device. The low-fi style of the photos from the Brownie imbues a timelessness to the subject and their chosen craft or occupation. The series shows us that technology has not quite stripped all of us of our love of analog techniques, and more traditional form of work. At least not yet.
A photograph shot by Stephen with his Brownie camera.
In case you haven’t heard (and have missed my excessive Facebook posts), I’m excited to have the Columbus Cultural Art Center host an exhibition of my photographs from The Brownie In Motion Project! The show will include one-of-a-kind silver gelatin photographs and contact prints made with the camera obscura, as well as digital images that trace our cross country journeys. The exhibit opens on February 19th and runs until March 19th, with an opening reception on Friday Feb 19th from 6-8pm.
In 2010, there was one working processor of Kodachrome film left in the world. After 75 years and countless photographs, the film that spawned Paul Simon’s 1973 classic tune of longing and fantasy was going the way of the passenger pigeon.
After I received a gift of 25+ rolls of 35mm Kodachrome film in early 2010, I began photographing at camera repair shops, film processors and photographic supply across the country. My images examine an industry transformed by digitalization and technological innovation recorded on an analog medium. The project ended in December of that year when Dwayne’s Photo – the last K-14 processor on earth – stopped taking anymore film in for processing.
Five years later, I’m pleased to finally share my project, titled Photofinishing, at the OSU Faculty Club through February 26th. The Faculty Club is located at 181 South Oval Drive in Columbus, Ohio.
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.
The Brownie in Motion Project has officially made history! : )
Jeff Curto – a photo educator and SPE National Board Member – recently mentioned the Brownie In Motion Project in his History of Photography Podcast, which fittingly dealt with the history of the Kodak Brownie camera.
When my friend and grad school studio mate Stephen Takacs called with the news that he would be attending the Jentel Artist Residency in Sheridan, Wyoming I just about hugged the stranger standing next to me in the grocery store. I have to admit my excitement was mostly due to selfish reasons. You see, I am a photo instructor at Sheridan College and knew that my students and myself would reap the benefits having him at Jentel if I could talk him into doing an artist talk at my school.
Being the gracious person he is, Stephen accepted the invitation to speak to Sheridan College and also offered to set up his giant camera obscura in the atrium.
Prior to his artist talk, a couple students and I helped Stephen set up the Brownie. It was great for the students to see what it took to unload the gear from the van, put the camera together, set up a traveling darkroom, find water, and set up lights; all before the main show began. In class I talk frequently about the difference between making a photograph and taking a photograph, and the purposefulness of Stephen’s Brownie is a fantastic example of what it means to make images.
After setting up the Brownie, it was time for Stephen’s talk to begin. My two photo classes as well as a ceramic, painting, and sculpture class all piled into room 207 to hear the artist speak. The talk was great and left students buzzing for days after. Stephen brushed upon his current works being tied to historical references that grounded his concepts in a context that the students could understand. What students were most excited about was the way the talk flowed. He was honest and spoke about the trials and errors that came with being an art maker. He spoke about how one body of work might lead to the next and how you might have to remake a piece multiple times over a course of years to finally get it to the final state.
Now it was time to explore the Brownie. The students were in awe of the sheer size of this camera. Most of the student body has never been exposed to a darkroom, and, oh, how I have missed first time comments on the prints being processed through developer.
“It’s magic” came from onlookers.
Stephen offered to take a class photo of us. While the photo was being composed Stephen directed students to move lights, time the exposure, and really made us feel a part of the process
After he spent the whole day with us, we helped to take down the Brownie. The students were sad that the camera couldn’t become a permanent fixture at Sheridan College, and have even been asked if we could possibly build one. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate Stephen taking time out of his artist residency to share his art making with us. We are truly inspired and can’t wait follow the Brownie wherever it may go.
The Brownie has been an object of curiosity at King’s Saddlery during the past week; a multi-generational family business in Sheridan, Wyoming, King’s is known for their hand-crafted leather work and quality ropes. As an artist in residence at Jentel in Banner, Wyoming, Stephen took advantage of his close proximity to make images of saddles, leatherworkers, and ropes. Testing the newly re-released Ilford Direct Positive paper Stephen began work with a heavily tooled saddle. The saddle turned out to be the perfect subject for testing his new paper, which seems to have a slower emulsion speed rendering it useless for portraits but OK for still life, because it never moved or complained.
I stopped by to visit Stephen while he was photographing this saddle, the last saddle master craftsman and family patriarch Don King ever made. Although this was not my first visit to King’s, my current photographic project on the real and ideal landscape of Yellowstone National Park has brought me this way in the past, their focus and commitment to quality western tack always impresses me. The Don King museum is a one of a kind treasure and not to be missed if passing through town.
It took Stephen much of the first day to nail his set-up and learn the new paper, but then he was hitting his stride and making great work. King’s staff helped him select and move saddles from both shop and the museum. He had his pick of classic western saddle craft with exceptional hand tooling. Members of the staff generously posed for portraits as well. A few days into his work Stephen was able to turn the camera and make some overall views of the shop with its extensive collections of saddles, ropes, and taxidermy. Today is his last day and Stephen hopes to make a multi-generational family portrait of members of the King family. (I’m sure he’ll post photographs soon.)
Tomorrow Stephen will take the Brownie to Sheridan College and present as a visiting artist. Our time at Jentel is rapidly drawing to a close and the Brownie will be back on the road soon. We post this blog to show you a small selection of Stephen’s time in action at King’s Saddlery.
In Spring of this year, I found out that I was awarded a month-long artist residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Sheridan, WY. This opportunity seemed like it could be just what I needed – the chance to focus on my own creative work in relative isolation for an extended period of time. So often in life, I feel as though I struggle to create new work and complete projects because of life’s many responsibilities, distractions and amusements. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for what I have but – like everyone else – sometimes have difficulty carving out time for creative projects.
Just as I’d hoped, attending this artist residency has been an eye opening, transformative experience. After two weeks, I can happily say that it’s been more than worth it. I’ve been able to hike in sagebrush covered hills, experiment with new techniques (like reclaiming Fuji Instant Film negatives), meet some wonderful creative people, develop new ideas and finally shot some photos that have been in my sketchbook for months.
The Jentel “complex” sits off of a dirt road about 20 miles from the small western town of Sheridan, WY. During any given time, there are a total of six artists – four visual and two writers – taking up residence at Jentel. We each have separate studios and living quarters but come together almost every night to share meals, drinks and conversation. Despite everyone coming from different parts of the country – each bringing with them different backgrounds and temperaments – we get along well and for that I’m grateful.
With only 12 days left, I’m becoming ever more aware of the temporal nature of my situation. Despite working everyday, knowing that I will have to leave in two weeks gives me an increased pressure to produce. There is still some much to see, explore and photograph here. I have a feeling that I’m going to leave Wyoming in two weeks wholly invigorated but wanting more!