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 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.
I’m really excited to announce that my image “Adlai Stein: Blacksmith” with be featured in the Columbus Arts Invitational happening this month at the King Arts Complex! Thank you to everyone who voted for my work on The Roy G BIV facebook competition!
This direct positive photograph was shot several months ago when Brownie and I visited Adlai’s studio at the Columbus Idea Foundry. Thanks goes out to Kate Morgan for her photo assisting skills!
The exhibition will run from August 13- 30, 2015 and feature the work of numerous Columbus Arts Organizations, including Mother Artists at Work, Creative Women of Color, Urban Cultural Arts Foundation, Fresh AIR Gallery, Clintonville Arts Guild, Tacocat Collective and ROY G BIV gallery.
Awards Ceremony: Thursday, August 27, 6–8 pm @ King Arts Complex (867 Mt. Vernon Ave)
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.
The day after our sunburn-inducing adventure in the Bonneville Salt Flats, we spent time in Twin Falls, Idaho reaching out to contacts in Oregon and lazing in the park next to the local library. This was much needed rest after our foray in Bonneville’s muddy expanses. Before leaving town, we felt compelled to do some sight seeing.
Snake River runs westward through the awkward little town in an epic canyon ¼ mile deep. The site of Evel Knievel’s failed Skycycle X-2 steam-powered rocket jump across the river, a dirt ramp on the south side of the falls still serves as a tourist attraction. The canyon is littered with waterfalls cascading brilliantly into the river, however the overabundance of strip malls and buildings around the falls dilute its natural beauty. I’m not sure if it was the town or the lack of sleep, but it left a strange taste in my mouth.
The amount of distance traveled and total waking hours began to take their toll on us. From Carbondale in Colorado, to Idaho via Utah in 72 hours, with no more than 10 hours of sleep we longed for rest. But movement is the name of the game; with only 48 hours until The Great Oregon Steam Up, again we hit the highway.
After being stranded in the Bonneville Salt Flats all day, we cruised the strip in Wendover, Utah; the nighttime streets lined with $35 motels. On the Nevada side of the border, bright Vegas-style lights advertise penny slots, $6.55 senior discounts, and all-night buffets. A weird neon glow rises up into the desert sky. A place for Vegas dropouts, and vagrant Mormons to drown their woes, Wendover was clearly not built for high rollers. Technicolor temples of debauchery are seemingly the only things West Wendover has to offer.
After scanning the strip, we decided to get some cheap grub at a casino. Inside the Red Garter, patrons sit hypnotized by machines ringing out the merry music of paychecks being tossed aside. Countless slot machines and who-knows-what-else awaits the avid gambler inside these establishments. We ate our dinner at the Prospector Lounge, a neglected section of the casino with busted-out satin chairs and dull historical paintings commemorating the old west. The food was good enough; a simple biscuits and gravy for myself, and two eggs and toast for Steve. After reflecting on our day in salty hell, we chose to move forward and immediately made tracks for Twin Falls, Idaho. Driving up an old dusty portion of 93, I stayed wired on caffeine and chewing gum.
It was 3:00 AM before we settled into a RV park, a few miles north of our intended destination. Out in the open, surrounded by rural-suburban sprawl, our choice of campground was anything but ideal. Instead of a tree-lined grotto in the woods, the desolate concrete pad was lined with water and electrical hookups. Steve was furious about my decision to camp here as we rolled up to our pseudo campground. As we drifted to sleep in the parking lot, distant footsteps shocked my dull brain with a jolt of paranoia. Exhaustion took over and, before I could peek out of my sleeping bag, I was overtaken by troubled sleep.
Thursday morning in Jerome, Idaho, the fair grounds where we camped were milling with lazy preparatory activity for an upcoming event. Having expected to be harassed by the police, or worse, twisted local bumpkins whose motives and ethical standards would be no doubt questionable, rising to the gentle murmur of friendly fair grounds employees was a relief. The clanking of tent poles and humming of diesel engines quietly emanated from surrounding lots while we slowly and crustily rose from slumber. Despite our ratty appearance, we — wild-eyed, dusty punks passed out in their parking lot — were greeted with an offer of showers, friendly conversation and use of a hose to clean off our van.
As I hosed-off the salty mud caked onto the bottom of our vehicle, I was struck by how fortunate we’ve been. All along our journey, the kindness of people we encounter continues to surprise and amaze us. From gifts of Girl Scout cookies to perfect strangers offering a place to stay, we’ve are grateful for everyone’s generosity and willingness to help two road-worn travelers.
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.
Last week, I was amazed by how many people came out of the woodwork during the final hours of the Brownie In Motion campaign and showed their support. Although we did not meet our goal, we did raise almost $4,000 for the project! Thank you so much for believing in this project! Everyone who publicly contributed has now been added to the Brownie In Motion Donor Hall of Fame on stakacs.com
A huge shout out and thank you to Molly Burke, Alison Stittsworth, Thomas Wagner, Ralph Fredericks, Miel Paredes, Darryl Baird, James Smith, Ed Gately, Berry Booth, Brittney Denham, Brad Baillie, Jenna Gordon, Roman Holowinsky, Amy Cubberly-Yeager, Chad Cochran, Dan Hausman, Larissa Hall, Elizabeth McManus, Casey McCarty, Chrissy Gillogly and those other generous contributors who prefer to remain anonymous! Your support means so much!
I’m now in the process of planning the next road trip with the camera obscura. If you have any suggestions on places to stop or artisans to photograph, please shoot me a message!
Please keep checking back for updates on Brownie In Motion!
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.