Suryaja Gym Parade E1618244305293, FotoFocus Cincinnati
Leonard Suryajaya, Gym Parade, 2020. Courtesy of Weston Art Gallery.

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2021, A Reluctantly Not-Miserable Retrospective

Posted on December 15, 2021

2021 was … technically a year. Sure, it feels like January became October with a tiny blip of optimism for, like, two weeks in June. But as we look back, we see a whole lot of good stuff that took place throughout the amorphous stretch of time formerly known as a calendar year.

So, here we present: Five things we did that got us through 2021.

We heard from brilliant curators, artists, thinkers, and more.

Lens Mix is a monthly virtual conversation series connecting speakers from different fields to comment on film, photography, and lens-based art. Created in celebration of FotoFocus’s tenth anniversary, the free series moderated by FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator Kevin Moore invites speakers to explore each others’ artistic practice and projects through intimate discussions.

Read our behind-the-scenes conversations with Lens Mix participants here — and then watch any conversations you may have missed.

Curator Kevin Moore Talks Expanding the Canon
Ahead of Lens Mix 7, a conversation about the necessity — and the inherent challenges — in defining and broadening a photographic canon. The virtual conversation was moderated by Kevin Moore with guest curators Andrea Nelson and Lucy Gallun.

Zora J Murff On the Intersections of Art and Blackness in America
Artist Zora J Murff’s works are investigations: of history, of systems, and of Black spaces. Read our conversation here, then watch his Lens Mix conversation.

Aperture’s Incoming Executive Director Sarah Meister On Reimagining Photography’s History and Future
The outgoing MoMA photography curator talked picking up the invitation to interrogate the historical record, and the importance of asking why, in advance of her Lens Mix talk.

Art Critic and Historian Hal Foster Talks States of Emergency and Structural Change
Society, you may have noticed, has seemed a bit unhinged of late. On Saturday, April 10, artist John Miller and art critic and historian Hal Foster talked with FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator Kevin Moore about the question of finding meaning and sense as the futures of art, society, and politics seem to unfold in increasingly erratic ways.

Documentary Filmmaker Nadia Hallgren Talks Storytelling, the Particular Power of Film, and Getting Beyond Self-Doubt
Few among us can count Michelle Obama as a personal booster, but all of us can now hear from one who does: In anticipation of her Lens Mix talk, FotoFocus caught up with celebrated director and cinematographer Nadia Hallgren.

Watch Party: Lens Mix
Talk doesn’t have to be cheap. For example, these Lens Mix conversations with artists, curators, authors, historians, and more from October 2020 through May 2021.

We planned (and postponed) our (in-person) Telephotography Symposium.

2021 Symposium FotoFocus Org The Lens Blog, FotoFocus Cincinnati
The 2021 FotoFocus Symposium: Telephotography was originally scheduled to take place in-person October 9 & 10. But as the era of Such Interesting Times We Live In churns on — and with it, Covid-19 — FotoFocus chose to reschedule the Symposium for April 9 & 10, 2022. Because, well, the organization wants to share art and ideas with the public, not a virus.

FotoFocus Symposium Rescheduled for April 2022
In mathematics, the Greek letter Delta means change. In 2021, the Delta variant means the same.

FotoFocus Curator Kevin Moore Talks Telephotography and the World After Covid
“It’s the literal, technological zooming in, bringing things closer — but also this idea of being connected to other people. It’s about the emotional aspect of what photography tries to satisfy.”

We saw art on gallery walls again.

Collaborations with partner venues, artists, and curators are a vital part of what makes FotoFocus such an impactful contributor to the community. In lieu of presenting the fifth FotoFocus Biennial, FotoFocus pledged its 2020 Biennial budget to over 100 Participating Venues and Partners through the FotoFocus Emergency Art Grant. Many of those venues were able to present their original exhibitions or develop new programming this year, represented in the exhibitions below.

Dust to Dust
Tunnelitis, an exhibition of photographs by Raymond Thompson, Jr., at Studeō PAR- uncovers an obfuscated history. (Through June 2022.)

Truth Be Told
Wright State University showed Truth and Ruin, a large-scale photography exhibition exposing the landscape of systemic racism alongside portraits representing and promoting Black joy and agency.

Through the Looking Glass
Self Love documented moments of recognition between artist and subject as photographer Bruce Bennett spent time in a third-grade public elementary classroom.

Making a Scene: “Return to the Velvet Rope” Takes Us Inside Club Clau, OTR’s Early-Aughts Hot Spot
Lesser known in the annals of Cincinnati history is that, fresh into the Y2K era, OTR was briefly home to a celebrity-circuit nightclub: Club Clau. The comings and goings were documented by the club’s art director with a cheap black-and-white camera, and shown this fall at The Annex Gallery.

“These Photographs are Fake!” On View at Clay Street Press
Deception and misdirection and falsehoods, oh my: This work from the early 1900s to 2014 may just make you question everything.

Four Lens-Based Shows To See This Fall
The idea of fall arts seasons may feel like a hazy dream from another lifetime, but take heart, dear Queen City: They’re back.

Far and Wide: Casey LeClair’s “Seven Cities” at Iris BookCafé and Gallery
Casey LeClair describes the exhibition as “part retrospective and part greatest hits.”

The Fabric of our Lives
Weston Art Gallery exhibited Material Message: Photographs of Fabric.

Art For All: CampSITE Sculpture Park is Camp Washington’s Crowd-Sourced Hub for Art
Artists and residents shared a public display of community creativity with an outdoor rolling roster of exhibitions.

“November” May Have Had To Wait a Few Months, but the Show Survived (and Responds to) 2020
The Beeler Gallery exhibition roared back from a pandemic-induced near cancellation. “November” was open for solo viewing by reservation — a safety measure that also bolstered the immersive experience.

We ran a remote-friendly educational initiative.

Screen Shot 2021 08 06 At 12.46.06 PM, FotoFocus Cincinnati
(Clockwise from top left) Ellis Johnson, Dev Thompson, Kearston Hawkins-Johnson, Sam Drake, Micheal Sweeny, and Kyle Mace. Photos: Dev Thompson and Ellis Johnson by Michael Sweeny, Kearston Hawkins-Johnson by Sam Drake, Kyle Mace and Michael Sweeny by Dev Thompson, Sam Drake by Kearston Hawkins-Johnson.
Insights is a FotoFocus educational initiative that supports the unique voices and perspectives of emerging regional artists through mentorship. Six artists developed a new body of work in collaboration with one another to bring their thoughts, feelings, and insights to life through a web-based presentation of still and moving images. 

Pass It On — FotoFocus Launches Insights: Call // Response
Insights: Call // Response is an emerging artists’ game of tag.

And through it all: We ate, and then we ate some more.

Screen Shot 2021 03 30 At 2.17.53 PM, FotoFocus Cincinnati
Hideki Harada by Jeremy Mosher; Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo
A do-it-mostly-yourself take on a film festival for the stay-at-home era, SECOND SCREENS: Foodie Edition paired a classic, widely available film with interactive—and edible!—elements for a dinner-and-a-movie experience done on your time. The monthly program ran March through June, 2021, and is now available here, no reservation required.

The Full Feast of SECOND SCREENS: Foodie Edition
Four courses of classic films celebrating significant anniversaries in 2021 and simple, chef-created recipes — and accompanying videos — to cook alongside them, all in one place. Watch, eat, repeat.

Dinner and a Movie
SECOND SCREENS: Foodie Edition is an in-home film series with a side of local restaurant love.

Stay tuned for 2022. We can’t wait for what we have in store.