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The Surreal World We Live In, as Captured by The Brownie in Motion

by Brittany Law

Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center
Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center

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.

Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center
“Sue Cavanaugh: Fiber Artist” from Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show

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.

"Big Mike: Rope Maker" from Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center
“Big Mike: Rope Maker” from Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show

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.

Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center
Brownie In Motion: Traveling Picture Show at the Columbus Cultural Art Center

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

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