Photo by Jacob Drabik

The Lens

The Lens is the FotoFocus editorial platform, highlighting our programming and featuring in-depth conversations on photography and the moving image drawn from perspectives and insights in our community, throughout our region, and around the globe.

Verso: Backmarks of 19th-Century Photographic Card Mounts

Posted on April 22, 2024

From 1855 to 1915, photographers promoted their production of albumen prints with engaging illustrations on the backs of carte-de-visite and cabinet cards. Listing their business location and prizes won, the backmarks feature enticing and sometimes comic imagery that markets photography as both artistic, through motifs such as palettes, brushes, paintings on easels, and scrolls, and divinely inspired, with angels, Greek deities, and muses. Asymmetrical, floral, and geometric designs express Aestheticism and Japonisme, while sun motifs express the very nature of photography— "writing with light." While many stamps were stock images, others were bespoke illustrations featuring depictions of studios inside and out,... Continue reading Verso: Backmarks of 19th-Century Photographic Card Mounts

“Capturing Life” (1839-1869)

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“Capturing Life” (1839–1869) examines the social, economic, and cultural impact of photography in Cincinnati as it became a major commercial center in America’s heartland. This one-hour documentary combines interviews with rare archival photographs for a compelling look at the region’s first generation of photographers, including Ezekiel Hawkins, Charles Fontayne, William S. Porter, James Presley Ball, and Charles and Mary Waldack. The program explores how photography recorded history, shaped identity, and forever changed the way life is viewed. “Capturing Life” (1839–1869) is the first episode in the documentary series, The Big Picture: A History of Photography in Greater Cincinnati, produced by Voyageur Media... Continue reading “Capturing Life” (1839-1869)

Deeply Rooted

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Curated by students at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Deeply Rooted highlights artists Vikesh Kapoor, Tomiko Jones, and André Ramos-Woodard, telling multi-generational stories of traditions. In the exhibition, memory is explored through cultural and familial experiences from different perspectives. Intergenerational aspects of intimate spaces, objects, and portraiture are showcased in vernacular, film, and digital photography.Kapoor is invited to serve as guest judge for the Art Academy’s Chidlaw Gallery show, Student Reflections, which will present selected artwork by AAC students.

Continue reading Deeply Rooted

Inhabited: Stories of the Past

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Inhabited: Stories of the Past is a photo-based mural weaving together the narratives of people and place, using a building as its canvas and inspiration. This mural seamlessly integrates archival and contemporary images, capturing the essence of individuals connected to the building's rich history. The fusion of artist-captured perspectives, archival photographs, and community submissions within the mural creates a compelling visual narrative that transcends time, unveiling often-overlooked facets of history. Collected stories from submitted photographs enrich the project, adding layers of depth and context.

Lead artist, Erika NJ Allen, believes the mural is more... Continue reading Inhabited: Stories of the Past


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Chiaroscuro invites viewers to explore the power of contrasts. Guided by Artists-in-Residence Romain Mayambi and Leo Thiam, a group of gallery fellows, ages 16–24, embark on a transformative exploration of light and dark, drawing inspiration from personal experiences with literal and metaphorical chiaroscuro. Through this experience, fellows master the technical aspects of photography—camera settings, composition, lighting, and color theory—as well as delve into the art of storytelling through directing, location scouting, and creating visually compelling narratives. 

Mayambi’s and Thiam's unique backgrounds shape their teaching approach, encouraging fellows to translate their own experiences through chiaroscuro.... Continue reading Chiaroscuro