For the first time since its inception, the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio mounted its first exhibition dedicated entirely to photography last weekend.
The exhibition “In Our Own Image: The Genesis of Photography and the Contemporary Eye” will extend through Dec. 31. Curators Scott Ferris and Arnold Tunstall created the exhibit, which displays about 200 19th century and modern photographs.
External Relations Manager Judith Oppenheimer finds a new favorite photograph every time she tours the exhibition. On Wednesday, she saw a picture that reminded her of a photograph of her mother.
“We are in all of these pieces,” Oppenheimer said. “All you have to do is let your mind wander. This is really a journey of ourselves and history.”
Ferris curated the first half of the exhibition, which is dedicated to 19th-century photography, showing examples of early photography, photographic processes and a record of people’s lives, occupations, successes, and failures.
“The idea is to get people to look at what I’m presenting and in a sense reflect back on themselves as to what they are internally or spiritually or externally,” Ferris said.
Ferris, who is a second generation antique dealer and specialist on American artist Rockwell Kent, curated more than 150 photographs that tell U.S. history — including its dark underbelly in regards to racism — and how it connects to people’s live’s today.
Ferris placed a mirror on the wall before visitors walk into the next section of the exhibit curated by Tunstall so “they reflect upon what they’ve just seen and reconsider themselves.”
Tunstall’s curation shows contemporary photography of people, landscapes, and animals using 19th-century methods.
“I hope overall viewers will appreciate both sides of the coin,” Ferris said. “It’s not just a means of documenting something and telling us something about ourselves … It’s also a legitimate art form just like painting and sculpture.”
In addition to the two collections, artist/photographer Stephen Takacs will take photographs of visitors once a month using a tintype process that will be on display through the end of the exhibition.
Both Oppenheimer and Ferris suggested visitors return to the exhibition several times because it is too dense to take in with one tour.
“Take the time to look through everything carefully and read the labels,” Ferris said. “Also because there’s such a massive amount of material to come back repeatedly. It will give (viewers) a chance to hopefully digest what they’ve seen.
“At the end, hopefully, they take a serious look at themselves at the end of the day and their place in the greater biosphere. We live in challenging time and if they think we’re still exceptional, maybe we need to go back through the exhibit one more time.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular museum hours from Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
For more activities relating to the exhibition, including a guest lecturer discussing Southern Ohio photography from 1900 to today and a series of pinhole camera classes, go to decartsohio.org.