Entries in Lustron (3)


The Kindness of Strangers

When I started into photography full time nearly five years ago, i was prepared to be surprised. Turns out, not sufficiently prepared. Surely, free from the distractions of my other more traditional careers, the work would flourish.  While that may be true, the meaning of flourish and the meaning of the work are both completely different than anticipated.

The biggest rewards have not been the hoped for acceptance or recognition that the work has received.  It has been the people, mostly strangers, that have been in the work.

MarcellusThe hardest part of many of my projects has been obtaining participants.  The great abyss includes concerns about privacy, lack of trust of photographers and the photograph, confusion about my purpose and plain old fear. Sadly, the biggest barrier is the contemporary inability we all have to respond to any requests that are not urgent. We are all so busy, busy, busy.  I could get rich if I could monetize the instances of people telling me "I want to do it. Have been meaning to get back to you." Traveled to the other corner of Ohio earlier this week and attempted to contact two people who had expressed interest in participating in my Lustron Stories project. Neither one responded to emails or phone calls. Did they change their minds? Perhaps. Most likely they just did not get around to responding. 

This post is not just me whining about how hard it is to do what I do. it is about the other side of the coin. What happens when people do participate. 

This started with Precious Objects when I found myself photographing complete strangers. While we may debate the depth of a Facebook friend, when I hear from my two brothers on Long Island, Trevis and Marcellus, my day is better, my life is richer.  Same thing happens when I talk to Leo or Muriel's daughters about their dad and mom.

This phenomenon escalated with Lustron Stories. As in Precious Objects I found myself with new friends - people who were genuinely interested in what I was doing as I am with them. Added to that, some of these folks insisted on giving me gifts. I talked about the Thomas Kinkade plate that Richard gave me in an earlier post. Recently I received this beautiful barometer from Bob (who happens to be an original owner of his Lustron.) Bob was showing me around and pulled this right off the wall.

Added to the gifts, people in Lustron Stories and my new project with present and former teachers and students at the Music Settlement, Held Notes, have bought my books. Those of you who know me understand that I am a shameless promoter of the books. However, when I go into a stranger's home to do a photograph, it is not with the purpose of selling a book. The first time it happened, I was a bit stunned.  Last week when Renee ordered both The Album Project and Precious Objects Renee on the porch - her blue LustronI was just as pleasantly surprised as the first time. What is happening is more than a book sale. It is an ad hoc community of people joined by the work.

Who knew?

Blanche Dubois has nothing on me……..


Upcoming Exhibitions

The Album Project will open at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown on June 9, 2013. The reception is from 1 -3 PM on that day. Would love to see both the art and autism community there. The Butler is a wonderful institution and I am very happy that we have the opportunity to tell this story.

Next up are two showings of Every I Have Ever Lived - the foreclosure crisis in twelve neighborhoods. The first is at the Campbell Gallery at the Levin College of Urban Affairs of Cleveland State University opening on September 3, 2013. Next it will be shown at the gallery at Wilmington College in Wilmington OH opening on January 23, 2014.

I also have pieces from my current project, Lustron Stories in some current group juried exhibitions.Clementine, the original owner is now hanging in the Minneapolis Photo Center's Home exhibition and is included in the Butler Institute of American Art's Mid-Year Show. Also in Home is Richard the Collector. Lustron Homes are all steel prefabricated homes manufactured in Columbus OH between 1947 and 1950. In 1950, everyone's story was the same. Now the people and the stories are a cross-sectioon of what has become to Great American Dream. Another piece from the series, Kansas City Community College is currently hanging in the Artist's Archive of the Western Reserve annual member's exhibiton. Another print of this same piece photographer's:network 2013 opening on June 28, 2013. Thomas Kellner, the organizer of this very generous undertaking, has said this is last of these exhibits organized this way.

There is more (Precious Objects in Las Vegas in January) but we'll cut this off for now. Rule #6 - enough is enough (thank you Calvin Trillin.)


The Great American Dream

Lustron home at Kansas City Kansas Community College from my current Lustron Stories project. Fabricated in 1948 in Columbus OH.While working on Every Place (I Have Ever Lived) - The Foreclosure Crisis in Twelve Neighborhoods, it was easy to see the problem as an attack on the "The Great American Dream."  We employ the term loosely, particularly during a political season.   It is useful to ask what that means. Some things certainly arguable.  Nevertheless, I would suggest that somewhere at its core is the idea of home ownership. It is impossible to overstate the damage that the foreclosure crisis has done to our belief that we all can, and should, aspire to owning our own home. It certainly shattered it for those that have lost their homes.  For those lucky enough to hold on, their homes worth perhaps 30% less than they were a few years ago, maybe less, may or may not have the equity they were counting on to cushion their retirement.  For those starting out, they no longer believe that it is safe to stretch your resources to buy that first home.  While we here a lot about the recession being driven by lack of housing starts, the actual damage is more spiritual than economic.  This will take a long time to fix. The good news might be the message in Precious Objects - that everything in life is cyclical and no matter how good or bad things appear, you are only a single event away from a very different path.
Speaking of Precious Objects, when the Maltz Museum picked their preliminary choices for the exhibit (that ended a week ago) tone was John K. John was a colleague from my first career. His piece talks about his career.  It represents work as more than a way to make money but a, rewarding, fulfilling aspect of a full life. Having that kind of work and career was another part of The Dream. Sadly, we put a stake in the heart of that idea many, many years ago.  John did spend his career at that company (I was gone after 25 years - they and I had had enough) and realized The Dream. His success is both a testament his talent, integrity and hard work and toThe Dream's value and truth. At least at the time. I felt John's portrait and statement did not make that clear and was pleasantly surprised when the people at the Museum chose it. When they later dropped the piece from their choices, I had them include it - the idea behind it is just too compelling to lose.