DAYTON, OH.- The Dayton Art Institute
partnered with the Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC) to present the exhibition Reinvention Portraits: Photographs by Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar and the Reinvention Collaborative, on view June 30 September 1 at the museum.
Last summer, an award-winning team of Dayton filmmakers and WYSO 91.3 public radio staffers, led by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, walked more than a dozen Dayton neighborhoods. Spending time primarily in Belmont, Residence Park, South Park and Twin Towers, they met people on their porches, in their driveways, walking their dogs, and in parks with their families. They captured hundreds of hours of video and thousands of images of great, funny, surprising and inspiring stories of adversity, resilience and reinvention.
The portraits featured in the exhibition, taken by the eight-member Reinvention Collaborative of Steven Bognar, Liz Cambron, Emily Evans, Megan Hague, Shawndra Jones, Emily McCord, Julia Reichert and Kyle Wilkinson, along with colorist Chase Whiteside, are a selection curated by Eva Buttacavoli, executive director at DVAC. Reinvention Portraits is part of a collaboration between DVAC and The Dayton Art Institute, intended to bring a fresh look at the art happening in our community.
Reichert and Bognar have a long history of visually unlacing the back story of their documentary subjects. Here, they have created a thoughtful portrait of the working-class neighborhoods of Dayton, many of which center on the front porches, observing the many forms they take.
The porches are bedecked; a few with garden statues, flags or flowers stuff revealing more about their owners. The individuals or groupings of families, however, stand against these spaces oblivious to them, but fully present in their connection to each other. The photographers use of space the porch as background and the tight frontal cropping of the subjects as foreground reveals the power of the small gestures which make the portraits come alive. Photographs by their nature translate the three-dimensional world into a flat image, but these photographs offer some familiar gesture the unselfconscious smile of a friend, the clutching of a pet, the clasping of hands that releases the compression of space and invites viewers to step into the scene.
The artists refer to a favorite photographer, Jack D. Teemer (1948 1992), famous for his street photography of urban Dayton and Cincinnati. Teemer sought to allow us to imagine the people who stake a claim to these places, but also register various societal factors, such as the effects of class, economic conditions, and urban zoning. Taking his cue, the Reinvention teams photographs reveal a beauty in their portrayal of the celebration of life in the arena of upheaval and reinvention.
The exhibition also includes a looped video that merges three perspectives of travelling up and down the city streets. Created by fastening GoPro cameras to the left side, right side and top of the artists car, the video rolls viewers through the neighborhoods, unraveling and then raveling the city up again.