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BEST OF 2013, Andy Snow
Dayton, OH
Project: Book project (and more) commemorating the Great Flood of 1913 with new photography referencing archived photographs from 100 years ago, and subsequent outreach.

© Andy Snow

© Andy Snow

Andy Snow was commissioned by the Miami Conservancy District to create photographs in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the Great Flood of 1913 — the worst natural disaster in Ohio history. His contemporary images from eight communities along the Great Miami River reference archived photographs from the flood’s rise and aftermath.

“Despite creative puzzles and amazing weather events, this project is blossoming beyond imagination,” says Snow. “What began as a book project is now flowing forward as Then & Now, a funded outreach to Dayton-Cincinnati area schools, universities and museums, creating collaborative lessons in history, geography, geology, ecology and problem solving for children and adults alike.”

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

Andy Snow: After graduate studies at Ohio University, I arrived in Dayton in 1974 to write and produce radio and TV commercials for an advertising agency. While I left the agency in 1976 to launch retail and wholesale enterprises, the connections I had to the design and ad community were crucial to my early successes within the regional marketplace as a corporate editorial photographer. By 1983, I decided that if I did not become a full time photographer, I would spend the rest of my life wondering, “What if…”

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

AS: The next year, 1984, I was one of the founding members of the Ohio Valley Chapter. I am one of the last of that original group still out standing in the field, which I am often seen doing in the pursuit of my architectural and landscape work. Corson Hirschfeld was the first President and ASMP National began to post notices on electronic bulletin boards of the era. I used my Osborne suitcase computer with a 300-baud modem to download the texts and print via an Epson dot-matrix printer. I would then fax them to Corson. The Osborne abides. Corson is a very successful writer now as well. The whole group was so great, tight; we had amazing events and wonderful programming. After his talk at the Art Museum in Cincinnati, we all sat down to dinner with Arnold Newman.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

AS: My first full-time job was as a photographer at an architectural firm in New Jersey, near Princeton. As a consequence of editorial gigs in that region and here, I became hooked on environmental portraiture, always endeavoring to include an element that furthered the narrative of the individual portrayed. My love of dance photography was fueled here in Dayton, thanks to our rich arts heritage that includes both the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), rooted in the African-American tradition, and the Dayton Ballet, second oldest regional ballet company in the US. In my travels, I am drawn to landscapes and cityscapes; my vision is definitely wide-angle.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

AS: My iPhone is my handy still-and video-cam, schedule organizer, address book, and e-mail and communication device. Not to mention exposure meter, level and fill light. It has addresses that date back to my 1994 Palm device. Thanks to my dad, an MIT grad, I’m an unabashed geek. It keeps my business nimble and my response time fast. I loaded PDFs of the 60+ sites I referenced for the Flood Project so I could access the thumbnails of the 1913 photos along with the location and history of any specific site we identified as worthy.

ASMP: What is unique about your approach, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

AS: Because of my interest in philosophy, philology and linguistics, I experience photography as a language learned as another level of communication beyond the verbal. Imagistic visual poetry, if you will, is the perfect presentation. So I approach every assignment, whether client or self-assigned, as a kind of puzzle to be resolved. I like to balance the need for structure and communication with design and narrative parameters, be it an editorial or a commercial assignment. I’m not usually intrigued with the making of product studio photographs, so I primarily gravitate to location work. When I arrive on site, I begin my engagement not just by looking, but by carefully observing with deepened awareness as I scout the options. It’s a sensibility honed from years of experience with situations, people and the technology necessary to deliver the goods. Sometimes it’s a dance and sometimes it’s a musical. Getting all the energy of the light that I receive to sing beautifully is my goal. The joy is in the process, the doing and the making. I agree with John Szarkowski that photographers make pictures. We don’t take pictures, we receive and craft them. There is no “shooting” in this process. The eye, the heart, the mind are translating the reception of the boundless energy into a depiction for the viewer to perceive and decode according to his or her experience. It’s the “three R’s” of resolve, receive and represent.

ASMP: How did this commission from the Miami Conservancy District to photograph the Anniversary of the Great Flood of 1913 come about? Did you bid for the job against other photographers, or did they approach you directly??

AS: It was a unexpected call from Brenda Gibson at The Miami Conservancy District (MCD), asking if I knew anyone who might be interested in a project of visiting 50 to 60 sites up and down the Great Miami River to commemorate the Great Flood of 1913 with new photos of the same locations. As I held the phone to my ear in one hand, I raised my other hand high. And I said, “Me! This is just what I’ve been looking for. A long term historic project that I can work on and play with. Let’s talk!”

ASMP: Your connection to the Great Miami River Valley obviously goes way back. A photo of the Great Flood taken in 1913 by Noah Elwood Weaver led you to discover that you’re both descendants of one of the earliest settlers along the Great Miami River. How did you determine this relationship? Have you been able to connect any living relatives as a result?

AS: Today, just before I addressed this question, I received an e-mail from the very person who had enlightened me about this subject: Dr. Thomas Weaver of Minneapolis. Synchronicity indeed. He sent more scanned photos of our extended family. Noah was his grandfather and lived here in the Dayton region.

Some years ago, unbeknownst to us, Tom had handed off to the West Carrollton Historical Society the very same vintage flood prints made by Noah Elwood Weaver that we identified as appropriate files for inclusion in the Flood of Memories book. I had made the new reference pictures, finished all the principal photography for the Project, and we were planning the exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute when Tom reached out to me with his genealogical background that included names I recognized from my dad’s mother’s mother. Margaret Weaver, my “Mumma,” as we called her when I was growing up in Easton, Connecticut, was an amateur photographer, and had been born in Brookville, Ohio to the northwest of Dayton, along Wolf Creek, one of the five rivers that feed the Great Miami. She and Noah are descendants of two sons of a Jacob Weaver who settled here near Miamisburg in 1804. Jacob received a land grant here for fighting in the Revolutionary War for the Colony of Pennsylvania. His farm was along Bear Creek; near what is named Weaver Road.

Jacob Weaver was originally Jakob Weber, a relative of Carl Weber, the Romantic composer. This may help explain my family’s deep connection to music. And maybe photography as I believe there’s a neural organizational connection of interactivity to both predilections.

Discovering a deep family connection to the Miami River and the Great Flood after the photography had been completed was, in all honesty, freaky. To find out that my family has been here since the area was settled more than 200 years ago, and that other descendants are still here, was a visceral and psychological revelatory experience beyond imagination. In my journey of destinations along the River, was there some kind of manifesting destiny?

ASMP: What did you know about the flood prior to getting this commission? Had you read written accounts or heard tales from relatives about the hardships caused by the flood?

AS: The Great Flood inundated much of this part of the country. From Columbus and Cincinnati to eastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky, rivers swelled beyond recognition and many communities were flooded. Thanks to a “perfect” storm that raged from March 21 to 26, eight to 11 inches of torrential rain fell in western Ohio. Even though the snow and ice from the hard winter had melted into the ground, the watershed was saturated. So the water ran into the creeks feeding the rivers of the Great Miami Valley. Estimates range upwards of nearly 4 trillion gallons of water. By March 26, the streets of Dayton were submerged under 15 to 20 feet of frigid turgid water; 14 square miles of the city was under “Lake Miami.”

The damage by the flood and by fire from broken gas mains was unimaginable. People were trapped in attics and rooftops, many were lost trying to escape the devastation. In Dayton, were it not for rescue efforts marshaled by John Patterson of National Cash Register, many more would have perished.

After the waters receded, citizens came together and raised $2,000,000 in private donations to put a plan into place to ensure such a flood would never happen again. Levees and dams were constructed after WW I and the once-raging Miami River was tamed. At the time, this was the largest privately funded infrastructure project in the world. I believe that the act of coming together to fund this endeavor infused helping-one’s-neighbor into the DNA of the community here. It made this region a “community” community.

When I moved to Dayton in 1974, I encountered the pervasive fear of the Great Miami River due to so many survivors of the Great Flood living here. The collective unconscious of the population was still traumatized. Tales and stories still abound because the cult of history here is rich and deep. There are many books and even a highly regarded play written and produced by Wright State University’s Theatre Department. My wife’s grandmother was interviewed about the Great Flood when the play was written in 1995. Only in the past 10 to 15 years has there been vibrant development along the Miami and I now live two blocks away from Riverscape. This venue for biking, kayaking, ice skating, and innumerable cultural festivals is very close to the epicenter of early levee failure that resulted in 20 feet of raging turgid water on the streets of downtown Dayton. All along the Miami from Piqua to Hamilton, new developments are emerging as fear of river is replaced with enthusiasm for recreational and residential development.

ASMP: After embarking on this commission, what research did you do about the flood or the geographic area, in addition to consulting the visual archive? Was there any particular research tools or methods that proved most helpful to your documentation?

AS: I’ve always been captivated with history. As a young boy growing up in Connecticut, I read every book about the Wright Brothers that I could find, never imagining that I would not only live my adult life here in Dayton, but I would have the opportunity to photograph John Glenn one-on-one with the historic Wright B Flyer, which was restored years ago under the direction of Orville Wright. (That was in 2003, during the 100th Anniversary of the Wright’s first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.) This airplane is stored at the Dayton History facility at Carillon Park, across from the former NCR World Headquarters, now the home of University of Dayton’s Research Institute.

Dayton History is akin to Dearborn Village in Michigan as a park, but it also maintains a massive archive of all things historic about the region, including the heritage of the most patents per capita of any city in the U.S. at the time of Wrights, National Cash Register and the flood. Access to this archive, along with the MCD, the Metro Library and the Wright State University archives, made information readily accessible. We reviewed hundreds and hundreds of photos, postcards, letters, and texts in our research. Angela Manuszak, of the Miami Conservancy District, was my indefatigable partner in this portion of the process. She has maintained as the active Web site with links and information to all things Flood.

ASMP: Were you familiar with other rephotographic projects before embarking on this commission, such as the work of Mark Klett? Did you reference any of this type of work in conceptualizing your approach?

AS: Having learned the artful craft of photography from Sol Libsohn, one of the founders of the venerable New York Photo League, I certainly was schooled in the documentation aspects of a survey project as a black-and-white presentation. Sol worked for Roy Stryker on the Standard Oil Project after Stryker wrapped up the Farm Security Administration photo survey. Peter Bunnell, for whom I worked as a research assistant, was the preeminent scholar of photo history at Princeton in the Art History Department. As an undergrad, I was immersed in photo history as well as the history of photography as art.

I was always in love with color photography and, in the early ’70s, it was becoming an accepted form. This project referenced both black-and-white and color. I hit the mother lode of interplay.

Basically, this was a “survey” like no other. All the historic photos are public domain. Many images are unattributed. The flood crested and receded over the course of that week in March of 1913, varying by location along the Miami. In the context of the history of photography, it was a heady time. Professionals from portrait studios in the cities made many of the images, using glass plate negatives, sheet or roll film, from which we have prints, negatives, lantern slides and scans. Some images were made by enthusiasts. Some photos are studied exposures, but many were made on the fly or from on high due to the conditions. A few prints are clearly manipulated by virtue of being rephotographed after skilled artisans painted in the flood water!

ASMP: In this project, The 100 Year Anniversary of the Great Flood of March 1913, historical photographs depicting the area during and after The Great Flood are placed next to your contemporary images showing the same vantage point today. What criteria were used to choose the archival images for you to revisit?

AS: Angela Manuszak and I worked closely together to finalize the images for the book. Given that the Miami Conservancy District was founded to build the levees and dams that have prevented floods for 100 years now, we determined from the onset that the cities and towns devastated by the Great Flood would be the primary focus. So, flowing downstream along the Miami, the project starts where the flood began: in the north with Piqua and Troy, on to Dayton, as the largest population center of the era, followed by West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown with its Armco steel mills, and finishing at another industrial center, Hamilton, Ohio. This is the area protected by the MCD, the first multi-jurisdictional entity in the State of Ohio. The work MCD completed in the early ’20s was the largest privately funded infrastructure project in the world at the time. Arthur Morgan, the creative genius who assembled the team and led the effort, went on to be the President of Antioch College. Subsequently, he was tapped by FDR to forge the Tennessee Valley Authority in the ’30s.

ASMP: Was there any particular photo shoot in that was noteworthy to you for one reason or another? One of the most strikingly extreme diptychs pairs a past photograph largely of a gigantic pile of wood with a current image of a well-manicured baseball field. Are there certain images to which the public has responded more than others?

AS: Every one of the new referent photos has a story. The overarching aspect they all seem to share is at least some witness to the concept of synchronicity. Carl Jung identified synchronicity as a causal connecting principle or parallelism by about the time I was born. Having studied Jung extensively as I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Nietzsche and later in my graduate studies of image and language, I have to share that I even had a “flying insect” experience that resonates with what he describes in his revelation of 1951-1952. Things happened that defied reasoned and reasonable explanation. Destiny is a corresponding concept that comes to mind with the connection to Noah (yeah, my cousin photographing the Flood was named Noah). After reviewing a thumbnail of one of his 1913 photos in anticipation of making a new photo, a dragonfly hovered about me for several minutes looking right at the camera, as if posing with the site (sight) of the historic image behind it. I have several raw captures of this event. At that time, I had no knowledge of Noah, this original location attributing to him nor our relationship. Yet, I wonder if the dragonfly was a messenger across the space-time continuum heralding the revelation I would receive about my familial connection to the River of the Great Flood at that time.

The Requarth Lumber yard in chaotic disarray at the site of today’s Dragon’s baseball stadium is another, though somewhat different, representation of the concept. At the time I made the new image, I had the 1913 image represented on my iPhone only as a thumbnail on a PDF form. Loaded down with gear, I just made a set of frames in that location. Yet, when we set up the exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute, it was the curator, Jane Black, who remarked about the connections of the structural components between the photos. The alignment of the upright poles, the horizon line at the sky, and the leading line from the center moving to the lower right corner of each. My favorite piece of the new photo appears in the lower right, highlighting the time-honored community tradition at stadiums everywhere; passing a beer to your seat neighbor! Yeah, I would have liked one myself at that particular moment.

Viewers are certainly attracted to the photos that present a new image similar to the old. Easy recognition. Yet, many study the images and find relationships and interesting aspects that surprise me as well. The best part of the exhibition was being there talking to attendees about their experience with the history of the Great Flood within their own community and family. So many shared personal narratives that imbued the whole project with a deeper resonance. Others enjoyed seeing the old images as black-and-white and the new images as color, no matter the actual subject. Certainly, here in the Valley, most recognized some of the locations. But many had no idea that the flood was experienced beyond the confines of the city of Dayton. Which is one reason we are taking the show on the road to as many communities in the region as possible.

ASMP: You say, “Despite creative puzzles and amazing weather events, this project is blossoming.” What obstacles got in your way and how did you resolve them?

AS: Each historic location was a creative puzzle to resolve and often required multiple visits. The light, the action, my reaction were just pieces of it. We had a long series of dry sunny days to the point of drought in June to July 2012, yet it yielded unparalleled numbers of blue skies with puffy clouds to offset the drab orthochromatic renderings of the flood and its aftermath. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy in late October and the Blizzard of 2013 in February, the Dayton Art Institute held its collective breath twice regarding delivery of Storm paintings, yet we prevailed.

ASMP: These photographs were published as a book. The book project became a 10-week gallery exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute. How did this exhibition come about? How many diptychs were displayed at the exhibition? Did you sequence the images yourself, or did you collaborate with the Dayton Art Institute on those decisions?

AS: The original commission was to produce the book. It incorporated all the old and new images that we selected. The exhibition at the DAI was a bonus. The day after the conversation with MCD, I mentioned it to the Artistic Director of DAI, and she immediately wanted to incorporate it into their plan for commemorating the Great Flood.

It was a three-part exhibition that began with a separate gallery room entitled Storm, which displayed giant canvases of clouds and sky by April Gornik, a highly regarded oil painter from the international stage. DAI had one of her works in their permanent collection. She and her gallery reps agreed to ship more. It was breathtaking to walk into that space. The exhibit then channeled visitors into Watershed, the photo exhibition, where we first presented enlarged lantern slides of the water rising about 20 feet outside of one house in Dayton in just five hours. Watershed then wound about from gallery space to gallery space to mimic the Miami winding downstream, showing then and now images of the impacted communities of Piqua, Troy, Dayton, West Carrollton, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton. It presented 35 sets of the images that appeared in the book. The final third, Riverbank, was devoted to attendee input by virtue of first displaying historic and current plans about development, from housing to recreational, along the Great Miami since MCD to the present, while inviting wishes and input about future ideas and plans. The use of crayons, paper and thumbtacks was highly encouraged. Attendance was beyond expectations.

ASMP: Funding was procured for this project so that it can now be seen in schools, universities and museums in the Dayton-Cincinnati region. How was the financing obtained?

AS: Then & Now is the Watershed piece of the DAI exhibition. I am blessed to live in an amazing community. In a casual lunch conversation, I mentioned that I needed X dollars to secure the collection from the exhibition with the frames intact in order to move it forward. A good friend simply said, “We can cover that,” without a moment’s hesitation. So far, there’s no need for additional funding. We’ve created exhibition proposals and are entertaining requests from venues up and down the Miami River Valley from Piqua to Hamilton. Right now, Then & Now is on display at Antioch University Midwest in Yellow Springs, Ohio, until October 31.

ASMP: Please describe how this project is being presented in these various settings and your involvement in this aspect of the project.

AS: In my heart, Then & Now is a community project and, given that, we have positioned it as giving back to the community, so we have total control over presentation and use. There is no cost to host the exhibition featuring the 35 image sets. We are constrained only by the scope and size of the exhibition-worthy space. Each venue is also a puzzle to solve in terms of how best to present the project and the outcomes ourselves and the venue partners would like to see. It’s great fun as the learning continues.

ASMP: Photographs from this commission are being used for educational purposes, under the title Then & Now. Have you ever been or do you aspire to be a teacher?

AS: I was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Dayton (UD) from 1994 to 2007, teaching location lighting and business practices to photography majors. During my final ten years, I taught digital processes from Dreamweaver to Illustrator to Photoshop to Lightroom because the full-time faculty was teaching black-and-white and archival practices in conjunction with Photographic Art History. UD has a great program and two of my students became my best assistants ever, and today they are highly regarded working photographers in other cities. At this point, I’m better as a mentor than a teacher, even as I continue to be a student myself. With the constant changes in our industry, learning continues. And learning by doing is the best.

ASMP: Has this project spurred in you any interesting or noteworthy thoughts or revelations about the past or the present — or even the future?

AS: My present interest always intersects with the past and the future. What’s next and what do I want to learn in order to know “how do you do that?” This phrase has always driven my work. I think I got it from my dad, the engineer, who always made images of my family with his Agfa rangefinder camera and Filmo D 16mm spring-wound film camera. Margaret Weaver was his grandmother and so, apparently, the photography gene was passed on. In the early ’80s, I learned how to light people, places and things. I studied the physics of lighting with various light sources to be able to interpolate published photos into lighting diagrams. I began digital right after I finished my book about location photography in 1993. That year Nikon introduced a slide scanner so I could learn Photoshop 2.5, Illustrator, and digital Web design on my Mac IIci with its SCSI interface. I built a Windows NT box in 1998 so I could learn Adobe Premiere via downloads from a Canon XL DV camera using an Adaptec FireWire card. Video continues to be part of my puzzle-solving repertoire. Happily, it’s now done with the same cameras and lenses as the stills. Editing video is fun extraordinaire. The expectation of narrative coupled with the intention of sequencing are yet additional aspects of the language of photo-optic-based image making.

ASMP: Do you have a general preference for documentary photography over other types of image making?

AS: Because I connected to national publications and did so much editorial photography early in my career, I’d usually rather be on location. It gets me out, inside and out, to some amazing places. The studio, home to a variety of computers, tablets, and printers, is primarily for the postproduction work.

Shortly after the founding of the ASMP Ohio Valley Chapter, I participated in a gig called Far West. It was a documentation project along U.S. Route 50, west of downtown Cincinnati. D Gorton, a photojournalist at a Cincinnati newspaper, organized the year-long event. He, like many of the participants, was a Cincinnati-based ASMP member. We had tremendous local sponsorship and a beautiful exhibition at a downtown Cincinnati gallery. But no Web site, no social media; it was 1988.

In 1998, I documented a traveling dance and music troupe, Rhythm in Shoes, on their East and West coast performance adventures and venues using a 1.3 MP Olympus digital camera and Toshiba laptop to create and upload Web pages and photos daily to my Web site, as a precursor to what we now know as blogs. We called it the Virtual Tour and it was written up in the ASMP newsletter at that time. The software was Visual Page by Symantec. The digital images were small, because the maximum upload speed was 14.4K via the built-in phone modem. No b, g, n, or 4G wireless. Fans followed the Tour via dial-up at home. If you can find it, it still lives deep in my Web site today.

From 2000 to 2003, I documented the construction of the Schuster Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Cesar Pelli of Yale. It was my first all-digital SLR documentation using a Nikon 1Dx, 5.7 MP of goodness.

Three years ago, I created an extended image sequence of three months of the construction of a solar array field for Dayton Power & Light. This was done amidst some nasty winter conditions, but we prevailed thanks to having redundancy by virtue of mounting an extra sequence camera at the main location. This video lives on my YouTube page.

ASMP: What equipment do you work with now, and how has this changed in the past ten years?

AS: 10 years ago I was using digital Nikons along with film-based Hasselblads, Sinars, and a Fuji panorama camera. Today I use Canon DSLR and Sony NEX bodies and lenses, plus Macs, PCs, iPads, and iPhones to process files for display. This is all replaceable hardware. My basic equipment remains the same. My eyes, my whole brain and my heart are still the essentials for my photography pursuits.

ASMP: You enjoy the technical aspects of photography almost as much as the creative aspects. Tell us about the software you use for the secondary step in your process. How much time do you typically spend in post-production?

AS: For me, the creative process continues in the technical. The yin of the yang. Without previsualizing the potential outcome possible via software and hardware processing, there is no picture making in my world. And I do like to create right at the edge of capabilities. Besides, playing the options with optimum files is really the most fun. Lightroom and Camera Raw go way beyond anything in my experiences in traditional darkrooms. The capability changed the game. With some clients continuing to ask about a “day rate,” I often say that for every hour spent receiving the energy to make a file, it takes at least another hour or more to make it presentable. A four-hour photo session means four to five hours in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. Early and often.

ASMP: On your previous Web site, you titled your bio “Andy isn’t thAt Large” [sic] and then go on to describe that you aren’t even “Almost Famous,” referencing the movie we presume. Is humor a big part of who you are? When you communicate with clients or work with subjects, do you often set people at ease using humor? Describe the tactics you use.

AS: There are no tactics here, nothing that considered. Humor helps relax all parties involved in a project, including me. With our line of work/play, I often say that if you’re not having fun, what are you doing…?

And no-flash news flash! A new Web face is up now, too. It’s been too long, six or seven years. Flash gives way to a more device-friendly experience of images with far fewer words. Writing about the work will continue on the blog and other social media.

ASMP: Your bio states that Marcel Saba has been greatly influential on your career. Please briefly describe your relationship and tell us about his character, his opinions about photography or anything else that helps familiarize us with this industry leader and owner of Redux Pictures.

AS: Talk about a great mentor. I owe all of my early editorial years to the friendship of Marcel and Jean as tremendous supporters of my nascent career and work. Marcel asked me to join Gamma Liaison when he worked there and I moved with him to Picture Group and on to SABA. He connected me with work for all the major New York magazines and beyond. He is the consummate professional, as honest and forthright as anyone I know. His main interest was always hard news, especially on the world stage. With the work he sent my way, the situations were always varied and exciting. People from every walk of life; I always pushed for experimentation with my results. That’s how I learned. Thanks to Marcel, I had hundreds of photos printed internationally in a plethora of publications.

ASMP: Please tell us about your most challenging assignment or project and describe how, in spite of the difficulty, you managed to come back with “The Picture.”

AS: For one early annual report, I had to make photos of airfreight jets on an airport tarmac at 2:30am from a bucket extended high above. Normally the wind blew strong, but it was calm as I went up. Lens 85mm, exposure f4 for 45 seconds on Kodachrome A, with 20ccM filter in a camera clamped to the side of the bucket. It was a miracle of still clarity with anticipated movement depicting activity.

Some years later, I traveled with my Sinar to a Sonoma vineyard to make 4x5 Fujichromes of an NCR rep with a vintner as part of an initiative about computer tablets. According to the NCR executive in charge, this entire campaign was the most stunning and successful they ever produced, even if it was way ahead of its time.

ASMP: You’ve photographed a lot of dancing, whether it’s tango, ballet or contemporary dance. What attracts you to this art form? What is your approach to capturing something so fluid in a still image?

AS: Speaking of movement, I love dancing on the edge. Pushing the envelope, thinking outside the taco shell, fiddling and finding the solution that brings music to the process. With dance, we have come so far; high-ISO digital capability with low stage lighting. A dress rehearsal is the perfect documentation project, especially if you know the piece. Even then, there are always new possibilities, new surprises. The perfect dance action image portrays both stillness and grace in midair with a little blur in the foot to depict the action of the moment, belying any suggestion of a Photoshop cut-and-paste job. Dance photography is an emotional triple espresso. Following live dance to beautiful music feeds the soul.

ASMP: Your bio also goes out on a professional limb by getting a little poetic about your process. You describe your categorizing of images as “serendipitous in deed. Visualization outside the alphabetical taco shell. Visioneclectic.” [sic] Do you find this personal, offbeat tone strikes the right cord with potential clients? In your experience, does phrasing like this help to make you memorable?

AS: A great photographer once said that it is the act of composing the image that is meaningful; whether one releases the shutter or not is irrelevant. is a Web site address I took on some years ago because it seemed to describe the mix and matrix of the work I’ve been doing. Narrow specialization is not my gig and working in a smaller market allowed me to grow my vision immeasurably. Visualization outside the taco shell is a referent to the ever popular “think outside the bun” of taco chain fame. So I say, why not take the next non-linear step? It’s just the way I express what I love to do.

ASMP: As a longtime midwesterner, do you find this region to be a lucrative place for a photographer to be based?

AS: We moved to Ohio from Connecticut when I was 15 and I finished high school in a suburb of Columbus. Growing up within an hour of New York City had already connected me to a larger world-view. And so I returned to the East for my college years. During that time, I made many trips to New York City to visit MOMA and the Met, not to mention the Fillmore East.

Here in the Dayton-Cincinnati-Columbus marketplace, I can be more of a generalist while playing niches at the same time. When I had a one-on-one photo session with Ray Bradbury, he was very relaxed and very clear. “Do what you love and the rest will follow.” That was 25 years ago; I took it to heart. Creative inventive talent continues to flourish here in Dayton. It’s a great place to live, work and play, while providing opportunity to talk and share with so many. The cost of living well is low. It’s a small universe that’s a great community for all endeavors. As I have for decades, I can make a real difference by freely and happily contributing photos to life-changing nonprofits. It’s a caring and giving community. I am bearing witness to a culture of helping one’s neighbor that the flood’s devastation helped to create.

ASMP: What projects, personal or professional, are you currently planning? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

AS: Out standing in that field. Camera close by, if not attached. Making pictures that sing.