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Uncovering Columbus: W.E. Arnold

“All of our histories are complex—there is disappointment, shame, loneliness, and there’s also joy.  I want all of it to exist, messily and awkwardly, in the photographs. Because that’s life.” – Katy Grannan, photographer These words resonated soundly through W.E. Arnold’s mind when snapping candid photos on 120mm film, serving as a makeshift motto through [...]
Danny Hamen

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“All of our histories are complex—there is disappointment, shame, loneliness, and there’s also joy.  I want all of it to exist, messily and awkwardly, in the photographs. Because that’s life.” – Katy Grannan, photographer

These words resonated soundly through W.E. Arnold’s mind when snapping candid photos on 120mm film, serving as a makeshift motto through his photographic journey. Arnold’s approach to photography is akin to stream of consciousness writing—a continuous flow of ideas uninterrupted by technical convention or apprehensive premonition.

Photography, at its core, is documenting a specific moment, sometimes striking and beautiful, other times painful and uncomfortable. Occasionally, it is memorializing a stranger’s laugh or a scenic stage of red mountains, other times it is a dilapidated building, or a man in the cold with a cigarette in hand. We have seen a recent wave of photographers aiming their lens at poverty from a privileged perspective, but Arnold contends that he is not some voyeur peeping inside a fleeting culture, but rather, a fellow member of the struggle looking to preserve what will soon be lost to time.

As he nears the end of his residency with the Second Sight Project—a community-based visual arts organization based in the blossoming neighborhood of Franklinton—Arnold is showcasing the last 13 months of his life. Strolling through the streets, engaging with strangers, he’s captured long exposure nighttime scenes, obscure neighborhood detail, and intimate portraiture. Here, we get a more closer look at the artist himself:

Photo by W.E. Arnold

In an age of amateur photographers armed with smartphones, it’s not easy to rise through the ranks using antiquated equipment. Why is shooting 120mm film important to your vision? 

120mm (medium format film) allows for more detailed images to be captured. Somehow the capturing of ‘more information’ translates to me as showing more respect to the subject matter, and project overall. Not to mention the additional layers of technicality that comes with the usage of medium format imagery. It doesn’t slow you down as much as say large format, but it does still require you to be on top of your game in order to capture the image as intended. I aim to capture images that are technically sound, while remaining profound and intriguing—this medium format allows me to do that.

 

Photo by W.E. Arnold

You say you guide your hands with your mind’s eye when out on a shoot. Could you extrapolate on that a bit?

In simplest terms, I’m referring to imagination and intuition. I believe it’s pivotal to remain open to what you encounter while you’re out shooting, and cautious that straight technical thinking can sometimes diminish such creative efforts. When I head out, camera and film in-hand, I have a very loose idea of what I’m shooting that day. People on the street, shadows at 5 p.m., whatever it may be—I stop it there. I never attempt to pre-generate images that I want to capture. I simply engage the experience and capture frames while enjoying the ride, and those ever present accompanying emotions.

Photo by W.E. Arnold

What inspired you to capture these subjects and these areas in the first place?

I grew up in Springfield Ohio, an environment very similar to Franklinton, especially in the early ’80s. So when I became a resident artist at Second Sight Project last April, I wanted to capture the rapidly changing neighborhood I was now a part of. So I set out to do just that:

Seen as a resident, accepted as just another guy trying to get by. I didn’t attempt to interrupt people’s day while out on the streets; if they clearly had no interest in engaging I kept walking. However, quite often I would get approached asking for a light, a smoke, a spare buck, and questions of, “what I was out taking photos of?” All I had to say was, “the neighborhood is changing fast and I want to capture it for what it is now, including its residents,”  and nearly every time that began a 15-20 minute conversation with people out on the street.

Photo by W.E. Arnold

Why photograph poverty?

Poverty has surrounded me for most of my life, from food stamps and free lunch at school, to struggling for basic necessities at home. Growing up, our lives were submerged in a volatile atmosphere swirling with financial concern, undiagnosed mental health issues, and substance abuse. Despite such hurdles, our parents still taught us right from wrong, made sure we went to school and did our homework. Whether intentional or not, this adversity provided a space for empathy, compassion, and understanding to blossom. The rough neighborhoods, negative influences, and undesirable situations brought with [them] a larger view of the world, and in turn, a positive life experience that guides me to this day.

Fear tends to frame our perception of neighborhoods that have a reputation for being dangerous, however exaggerated that illusion. What many see as dangerous, others see as home. This body of work challenges who we think of as our neighbors through capturing moments of humanity and cultural significance both unique to Franklinton, and yet so very common across America.

As the cycle of gentrification changes the face of neighborhoods, I aimed to capture an authentic exploration of a community “in transition.” The imagery invites the viewer to experience the beauty of a place most have little desire to venture to otherwise.

Photo by W.E. Arnold

Have any of your subjects seen the exhibit?

Yes, a few of the subjects in my current work have seen the installation, all of which have enjoyed the end result. I remain confident that any individual who participated will be proud to see their image, as I did exactly what I told them I was going to do. Capture them, as they are, displaying the images in a gallery telling the story of Franklinton as it sits today amidst constant change.

We see more and more commentary about the sensitivity of capturing people and things in blighted areas. How do you tackle that potential criticism?

Gentrification, poverty, and homelessness aren’t new problems, and neither is photographing areas affected by such social issues. What is unique is that I was able to approach the community as a fellow resident, and from a place of similar lived experiences, allowing mutual respect and understanding to guide conversations. The atmosphere of such a setting allowed for more revealing and personal images and stories to be captured. I was a neighbor—I looked like them, I talked like them—they let me captured them. Together, we are poverty.

 No.13 Obscured by Clouds will be showing at The Second Sight Project in Franklinton. For more information, visit secondsightfranklinton.com.

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Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31

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With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.

Friday

Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.

Saturday

Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.

Sunday

Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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