Accompanying Image / Photo Example: 

Top to Bottome
Lee Elizabeth Douglas, Buttons, 2011, digital print, 8 x 10", courtesy of the artist

Sean Hughes and Carl MydansImages of the Great Depression: Mariemont Then and Now2009, digital print, 8 x 10”, courtesy of Sean Hughes and the Ohio Humanities Council












University of Cincinnati Sycamore Gallery

628 Sycamore St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202    

Saturdays in October, 12 pm–3 pm
and by appointment


Artless Photographs
Images of the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio 1935-2010
October 1–October 27

Exhibitions Reception 
Friday October 12, 6 pm–9 pm

Artless Photographs
 (513) 556-3569  
Images of the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio 1935-2010 
Phone (513) 556-1311 

Artless Photographs 
Curated by Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Cincinnati and Lee Douglas, Department of Anthropology, New York University
Artless Photographs
 looks at documentary photographs taken in a range of institutional contexts that record exacting details about individual bodies and identities while also generating typologies and categories that are at once both diagnostic and predictive. Taking the viewer from events as distinct as model castings in New York's fashion industry to exhumations in post-conflict Spain, the show asks its audience to think critically about the power and utter mundanity of photographic images and the practices that produce them. How does the standardization and routinization of these images’ production de-emphasize the role of the photographer?  Do these processes elevate the expertise required to read and interpret the small details and auratic potentials of these images?  What stories and alternative histories can be revealed by looking at these types of images alongside records of their production?  Visually demonstrating how these images not only represent but actively shape moral categories of social difference, the exhibition argues that these seemingly ‘artless photographs’ are anything but straight-forward representations.

The exhibited collections – mug shots, casting photographs, and forensic images, among others – are installed alongside images of their production. Juxtaposing the seeming placelessness of these images with their embedded institutional ecologies, the show explores multiple temporalities and mediations of identity. 

Images of the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio 1935-2010
Beginning with the stock market crash in 1929, the decade of the Great Depression introduced an era of unprecedented change in American communities.  As families struggled to stay together and local governments scrambled to care for their communities, Roosevelt’s New Deal brought sweeping changes to the landscape of Ohio and to our expectations for a better life.

It was also an era in which documentary photography influenced how Americans thought and felt about themselves, their communities, and their hopes for the future.  Roosevelt and his New Deal administrators understood the power of photography, and they used it to impact public opinion, federal legislation, and the nation’s recovery.

The Ohio Humanities Council commissioned a re-photographic survey of Ohio sites photographed by FDR’s documentarians in the 1930s.  The traveling exhibition features 78 images, including 28 pairs of archival/rephotographic scenes, and 15 images representing contemporary visions of the locations revisited. The re-photographic survey was undertaken by a team of award-winning photographers who retraced the steps of such luminaries as Arthur Rothstein, Carl Mydans, John Vachon, and Ben Shahn.  The exhibit is co-curated by the Ohio Humanities Council’s Pat Williamsen and Dr. Andrew Hershberger, an art historian with Bowling Green State University.

To document the sites that the Depression-era photographers visited in Ohio, the Ohio Humanities Council engaged six award-winning Ohio photographers:

- Ardine Nelson, Associate Professor, Department of Art, The Ohio State University and Guggenheim Fellow
- Fredrik Marsh, Lecturer, Department of Art, The Ohio State University and Guggenheim Fellow
- Sean Hughes, Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Cincinnati
- Helen Hoffelt, Associate Professor, Division of Media Studies, Columbus College of Art and Design
- Lynn Whitney, Associate Professor of Photography, Bowling Green State University
- Joel Whitaker, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Visual Arts, University of Dayton

With this project The Ohio Humanities Council aims to generate education, discussion, and evaluation on the impacts of the Great Depression and the New Deal in Ohio by actively engaging the public through oral history interviews, exhibits, and other collaborative projects. The Ohio Humanities Council developed the New Deal in Ohio project in partnership with the Ohio Historical Society, the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Center for History and New Media, and the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museum

Images of the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio 1935-2010 was funded by grants from the We the People initiative at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ohio Arts Council, the Thomas R. Schiff Fund at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and Epson America, Inc.

The University of Cincinnati supports FOTOFOCUS by providing the use of The University of Cincinnati Sycamore Gallery space for this collaborative initiative.  UC staff/faculty from several departments have come together through the arts to collaborate and express their artistic talents for the enjoyment of the community.  UC faculty and staff from DAAP, Anthropology, Journalism, and the University Architect’s office collaborated to organize and participate in this event.