02 FF CAC Chip Thomas 03 Lehigh On The Tire Swing, FotoFocus Cincinnati
Chip Thomas, Lehigh on the Tire Swing, 2013. Courtesy of the artist

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FotoFocus Announces Featured Projects for 2024 FotoFocus Biennial: backstories

Posted on March 13, 2024

America’s Largest Photography Biennial Returns This Fall for Most Ambitious Edition Yet, With Major International Survey of Barbara Probst; Solo Exhibitions by Chip Thomas and Ming Smith; Retrospectives of Ansel Adams, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, and More

In a Press Release originally published on March 13, 2024, FotoFocus proudly announces Featured Projects for the seventh edition of the FotoFocus Biennial, which takes place throughout the month of October, with an Opening Weekend Program September 26–28, 2024.

FF CAC Barbara Probst 03 no185
Barbara Probst, Exposure #185: Munich, Nederlingerstrasse 68, 04.21.23, 2:35 p.m., 2023. Courtesy of the artist

The largest of its kind in America, the FotoFocus Biennial programming extends across ​Greater Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Northern Kentucky. A collaborative effort between FotoFocus and the region’s museums, galleries, universities, and public spaces, the FotoFocus Biennial is a month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art that unites artists, curators, and educators from around the world. The Biennial returns with 106 projects presented at 83 venues, making 2024 the largest program in FotoFocus Biennial history.

Left: Barbara Probst, Exposure #124: Brooklyn, Industria Studios, 39 South 5th St, 04.13.17, 10:39 a.m., 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Right: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Four Twins, 1985. Gelatin silver print, 9 x 13⅞ inches. Courtesy of Autograph, ABP London

This year’s artist commissions and programming center around the theme of backstories, referring to past experiences that may have happened out of view or gone unnoticed—histories that have not been told or have lacked perspective. These stories fill in the possible blanks, providing essential context for art and images. Programming will ponder the relationships between artists, subjects, and the circumstances surrounding them.

The thematic direction of backstories echoes throughout 15 Biennial Featured Projects, including an unprecedented exhibition shedding light on Ansel Adams’ earliest works at the Cincinnati Art Museum; the first American survey of work by Barbara Probst at the Contemporary Arts Center, as part of an international tour; the first comprehensive museum presentation by Nigerian-British photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode at the Wexner Center for the Arts; three exhibitions by Columbus-raised Ming Smith at the Columbus Museum of Art and Wexner Center for the Arts; and a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center with a newly-commissioned mural by Chip Thomas. Group exhibitions include Southern Democratic at The Carnegie, a meditation by 15 contemporary artists on William Eggleston’s Election Eve photographs; and Memory Fields at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery, examining connections between culture, place, and memory.

Left: Tag Christof, Colonial Kitchen #6, 2019. Archival inkjet print, 17 x 22 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Right: Ming Smith, Dakar Roadside with Figures, 1972. Archival pigment print, 24 x 36 inches. Courtesy of Ming Smith Studio

FotoFocus also introduces a new initiative for this year’s Biennial: Call for Entry Selections. These six projects, produced by independent, regional creatives in response to the theme of backstories, celebrate the emerging and distinct talents of our community. Selections include: Digressions and Another First Impression, exhibitions highlighting life in the Midwest; Humphrey Gets His Flowers and The Trail of the Dead, both cathartic explorations of personal histories; an intimate portrayal of refugee families in More Than Meets the Eye; and Artist Run, a photographic archive and tour of Cincinnati’s historical artist-run spaces.

Left: Kanthy Peng, Artificial Tear, 2019. Archival inkjet print, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Right: Rachael Banks, The Wedding, 2017. Archival pigment print, 35 x 28 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Backstories is inspired by hidden histories and reclaimed narratives,” said FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator Kevin Moore. “As a theme, it’s meant to get us to think of the ways stories—personal, historical, political—have contexts that are necessary to look into. Photographs and backstories work on parallel planes.” 

“FotoFocus is delighted to once again partner with local, regional, and global artists and institutions to bring exceptional programming to Cincinnati and beyond,” said FotoFocus Executive Director Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth. “We are eager to welcome attendees from all over the world to our biggest biennial yet.”

Left: Michael Coppage, Portrait of Humphrey Humpkick, 2023. Digital print, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Whitney Dixon. Right: Da’Shaunae Marisa, Classic Car Owners of Cleveland, 2021. Photograph from 120 film, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist

Featured Projects (click to expand to read caption information)