The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati is pleased to present Picturesque Cincinnati: Then and Now, as part of FOTOFOCUS, the regional photographic festival. The exhibit will run from September 18th through October 31st, with an opening reception on Tuesday, September 18th from 6 – 8pm.
FOTOFOCUS recaptures the spirit of Cincinnati’s legacy as an epicenter of art production and creative exchange, and seeks to revitalize that spirit for the 21st century. Acting as a catalyst for institutional collaboration and community engagement, FOTOFOCUS organizes a month-long biennial celebration spotlighting independently programmed exhibitions of historical and contemporary photography and lens-based art.
The exhibition juxtaposes vintage photographs by the Kraemer Art Company made at the turn-of-the 20th century and contemporary scenes of Cincinnati made by former native David La Spina.
The Kraemer brothers took advantage of Congressional authorization in May 1898 to enter the postcard field and developed a thriving business photographing, producing and distributing postcards of ‘scenic’ Cincinnati. In collaboration with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce they published Kraemer and Kraemer’s Picturesque Cincinnati, a book of the postcard source imagery arranged by subject matter from churches to parks, estates, and public works. The majority of the Kraemer images have been preserved and proliferated through mechanical reproduction cementing their legacy as the comprehensive visual document of Cincinnati at the end of the Gilded Age.
For the exhibition, La Spina selected Kraemer Art Company images from the archives of the Cincinnati Historical Society, some of which were never translated into postcard or book form. The selected images often bely the optimism of Cincinnati at the beginning of the 20th Century, depicting half-completed public works, vacant new industrial parks, commuter neighborhoods and city streets. A century later, echoing this geography and focus, La Spina’s images are populated by the citizens now inhabiting and working in this built environment. From suburban vignettes to post-industrial tenements and factories, La Spina’s landscapes explore the neighborhoods that inspired his selections of the Kraemer outtakes and speak of a different Cincinnati at the beginning of the 21st Century. Presented together these two groups of images also reflect on how types of photography created for distinct purposes function in the context of historic record.
David La Spina (b. 1981, Cincinnati) is currently based in Tivoli, New York. He earned a B.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2005 and a M.F.A. in photography at Yale University School of Art in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, his documentary project of the slow food movement in the United States was featured monthly in the New York Times Magazine. La Spina has exhibited in group shows and events at X Initiative, David Zwirner Gallery, the Aperture Foundation Gallery, Gigantic Art Space in New York, Eighth Veil in Los Angeles, Gallery 339 in Philadelphia, and at Galerie Thomas Flor in Dusseldorf, Germany. His work has been published in Blind Spot magazine, where he now co-hosts a monthly radio show on photography. Currently, he is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. This is La Spina’s first exhibition at a public institution. For a C.V. and examples of David La Spina’s work, please visit: davidlaspina.com.