Acquainted with the Night

Layout of night photos w Frost poemBack in the days when I was working at The Missourian, I’d cover some night event, maybe a meeting or sporting event, then I’d go to my home basement darkroom to process the film and print the photos. Since I’d rather stay up late than get up early, I’d drive the pictures over to the office that night.

If I wasn’t sleepy, I’d sit in the office doing my homework or listening to one of the three police, fire and highway patrol radios mounted on a column in the newsroom. Every hour, I’d jump when the West Union clock on the wall reset itself to the absolutely correct time with a jarring CLUNK!.

If I got bored doing that, I’d hop in the car and cruise the back streets and alleys, listening to police calls through a Tompkins Tunaverter, a little gray box that converted the car’s AM radio into a VHF FM monitor. Cape’s a town that goes to sleep early, so it was like it belonged to me.

I love biking after dark

To this day, I love riding my bike after dark. In the early evening, you can nod and speak to folks walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. You can smell what’s cooking for dinner. If there is a flickering light coming from a dark room, you know they are watching TV, because a computer screen emits a steady glow.

From behind, I’m lit up like a Christmas tree; in front, there’s a generator-powered headlight cutting through the blackness. If I look down, I can see in the backsplatter of the light my sweat-glowing legs pistoning up and down, driving the chain with a snicccck, sniccck, sniccck sound.

Like Robert Frost, I, too, have been acquainted with the night.

This is one of my images that will be displayed at the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson after Homecomers and until about the end of the year. The theme of the show will be Coming of Age in a Small Midwestern Town between 1963 and 1970ish. Click on the photo to make it larger.

Then and Kind of Now Exhibit

Cyrus photo of KLS exhibit 07-14-2014_oI mentioned in a couple of posts that Curator Jessica of the Athens County Historical Society & Museum had put in some hurry-up requests for photos she could exhibit. I started bugging her for photos to prove that she had actually put together exhibits using the pictures.

Cyrus Moore III shot a panorama of the panoramas of Athens, Ohio, I took from the Radio and TV building last fall to go along with some cityscapes I had taken in 1969. I was pleased with the way they played off each other. If I remember correctly, the panoramas were about four feet wide and were made up of five or six frames stitched together with Photoshop doing all the heavy lifting. Something that used to take hours in the darkroom is done in about a minute in the computer.

Athens train station

Ken Steinhoff photo exhibit Athens County Historical Society Musuem 07-14-2014Jessica and company did a nice job pulling together my photos of the Athens train station to go with a couple of older shots. I spent quite a few hours at that station going to and from Cape by rail and waiting for boxes from Railway Express. The building is still there and is in good condition.

Train station today

Athens train station 01-24-2013I wish more of the old train stations could have been maintained this well.

Court Street

Ken Steinhoff photo exhibit Athens County Historical Society Musuem 07-14-2014Court Street is one of two main streets in uptown Athens. Jessica’s photos picked up some bad reflections from the plexiglass, but you can still get a sense that most of the buildings have stayed the same over the past 100+ years.

I posted the whole set of photos I sent her to consider if you’d like to see better examples of them.

That looks like the same spot

Ken Steinhoff photo exhibit Athens County Historical Society Musuem 07-14-2014One of her interns said, “That looks like it was taken from the same spot,” referring to the photo at the bottom of Curator Jessica and Carol Towarnicky walking to lunch on a snowy day in October of last year. I didn’t take the top photo, but I bet the photographer was, like me, on that corner killing time waiting for the light to change.

A display with spirit

Ken Steinhoff photo exhibit Athens County Historical Society Musuem 07-14-2014I mentioned the other day the hurry-up request for photos of the first beers being served at the student union back in 1969. She threw up this window display to help promote the Historic Tavern Tours the museum does as part of the 9th Annual Ohio Brew Week Festival.

You can see better examples of the photos here.

Passes the meter maid test

Ken Steinhoff photo exhibit Athens County Historical Society Musuem 07-14-2014Jessica says she knows her displays works when the meter maid stops to check it out.


Ken at the Kennedy

Kennedy Museum of Art 05-08-2014Curator Jessica said we needed to go to the Kennedy Museum of Art at The Ridges to see a couple of my photos that are on exhibit.

I fit in well there because the Kennedy is housed in what was once the administration building for the Athens Lunatic Asylum. Within two years of its opening in 1874, it was rebranded The Athens Hospital for the Insane.

That was only the first in a long list of names it would wear as public sensibilities changed until the facility closed in 1993. The hospital would be called, among other things, the Athens Asylum for the Insane, the Athens State Hospital, the Southeastern Ohio Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health Center, the Athens Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center, the Athens Mental Health and Developmental Center, and then (again) the Athens Mental Health Center.

It is still a stunning building

Kennedy Art Museum 05-12-2014Despite the fact that parts of the facility have been allowed to deteriorate, you can see how ornate the fixtures were. The patient rooms were designed so that each would have a window. The original plan was to make the rooms so small – roughly 100 square feet – that they wouldn’t house more than one patient. Curator Jessica said that overcrowding forced them to put two and three to a room at times.

I’m uncomfortable with the A-Word

Kennedy Art Museum 05-12-2014Even though I went through Ohio University under a fine arts program, I was never comfortable using the Art-Word in connection with my photos. I saw them as news when they were taken, though they have become history now that they’ve acquired some whiskers.

Part of that reticence is that art galleries like to search for hidden, deep meanings, and expect art to make bold statements. This, for example, appears in the room that houses my two prints.

I have always contended that my photos are straight-forward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get frozen slices of time converted to ink squirted on toilet paper and pitched in a puddle in front of your house.

Two shots from the protest era

Kennedy Art Museum 05-12-2014The two photos the museum elected to display as examples of testing boundaries aren’t what I would consider to be my strongest images from that sequence, but I’m honored that they made the cut at all, I suppose.

The picture on the left is of graffiti on the Main Green’s War Memorial. The boundary it was stretching was polite discourse: one of the words written on the statue was a less euphemistic term for male bovine excrement.

The second photo was of a line of male and female protestors linked arm in arm marching exuberantly down the town’s main drag.

You can see the photos in this Kent State era post. The first shot is number 9 of 86; the marchers are in number 15 of 86.

Pride Goeth Before a Bird Cage

Having my photos exhibited at the Lutheran Heritage Cultural Center and Museum and speaking at the Immigration Conference in Altenburg and a DAR meeting in Cape is heady stuff for a newspaper photographer. Every time I start thinking I’m going to have to go out and buy a bigger hat, I return to my roots.

I’ve had days when I shot a photo I really liked: it captured the essence of a moment or the soul of the subject. I’d pull back and bask in that proud moment when I are sure that I have produced something of lasting value.

Then, I’d go to the first assignment the next day and see my photo staring up from the bottom of a bird cage or spread out on the floor for a dog’s duty.

That goes a long way toward keeping you humble.

Show ends November 9

Carla Jordan and her staff tell me that a fair number of my readers have made the pretty drive to Altenburg. For any of you who have been putting it off, better saddle up. The show is coming down November 9 or thereabouts to make way for the annual Christmas Tree exhibit.

Friend Shari is bring some of her St. Louis friends down to see the pictures, so I’m going to hang out with them in Altenburg for awhile Saturday afternoon. I’m not exactly sure when we’re going to be there or how long we’ll be around, but you can call the museum at 573-824-6070 to see if we’ve been there yet, are there or have left.

There are two 2013 calendars, a Tower Rock Book and a catalog of the exhibit photos on sale in the gift shop. (They will also do mail order.) Here is more information about how you can obtain the publications. There are also a limited number of prints available.

Photo gallery of exhibit pictures

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery gallery.