A Sunday Chat with Photographer Doug Taylor

DVAC Auction will offer His Work and that of 100 other local artists

Those who love the visual arts look forward to the annual DVAC Art Auction, where artists and art lovers alike have the chance to mingle and purchase original art from area artists.

This year’s event, the 19th in the history of the organization, is slated for Friday, April 26, at Sinclair Community College’s Ponitz Center. More than 600 are expected to attend the festive evening, which includes food, entertainment by Puzzle of Light and 118 art pieces ranging from paintings and prints to sculpture and jewelry.

“Everyone says the fun part is watching the live auction: the friendly bid competition is always wildly fun,” DVAC’s Executive Director Eva Buttacavoli said.

She said she loves watching a first-time buyer win a work through the silent auction. Prices, she explains, are determined by level of artist and complexity of work — the artist and auction committee agree on a fair market value. Opening bids usually are 60 percent of market value and final prices generally range from $75 to $300 for the silent auction and as much as $1,200 to $2,500 for the live auction.

Since 1991, the Dayton Visual Arts Center has been providing a community gathering place for artists in the region. In addition to offering year-round art exhibits and education to the public at its Jefferson Street gallery, it hosts programs ranging from gallery talks and workshops to an annual ARTtoBUY holiday gift shop and intimate Artist Palate dining events in members’ homes where local artists are highlighted.

New this year: a chance to preview all of the art that will be for sale online.

In anticipation of this year’s auction, we chatted with one of the talented artists whose work is always popular with auction patrons.

Art photographer Doug Taylor, who lives and works in Bellbrook, is a DVAC member best known for his landscapes, nature work and photos of urban environments. He has exhibited in more than 100 juried art exhibits since 1982.

We had the chance to talk with Taylor in his neatly-organized and extensive photography studio, which takes up two floors of his rustic home in the woods.

Q: Tell us when you first became interested in photography?

A: I was born in Southern Hills and grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. Nobody in my family had any interest in the arts. My mom made me play trumpet, but I wasn’t interested in it. I liked baseball, football, riding bikes.

I went to Ohio University and graduated with a degree in finance, although I really didn’t want to do that.    But at OU I was exposed to the work of Ansel Adams and Canadian Robert Frank — and it was eye-opening. Robert photographed the America we didn’t want to see, and I realized you could use photography to document a city, a people, a landscape.

The only photography I had known was the pictures our family took at birthdays.

Early Training

Q: What was your earliest training?

A: In 1972, I enrolled at what was then the new Southwest Ohio Institute of Photography — it later became OIP, the Ohio Institute of Photography. It’s odd because when I enrolled, I didn’t even own a camera. At this school, the first thing they did was put a 4-by-5-inch field camera in our hands, and it was all manual. There were no automatic settings and exposure time and f-stop were determined by a handheld external light meter and transferred to the lens.

The curriculum was 100 percent based on film, and I learned how to manually use large cameras, and hand-held metering, as well as how to develop and print with black-and-white film and color transparency film. I was hooked at that point!

Q: What photographers and artists influenced you?

A: Weston, Stieglitz, Callahan, Adams, Sheeler and Hopper. Rachel Carson is mostly known for her book, “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, and credited with helping launch the contemporary environmental movement. I came across another of her books in the early 70s — “The Sense of Wonder” derived from Mrs. Carson’s walks with her grandchildren in natural areas and observing how they were in awe of their natural surroundings. After reading the short book, it made sense to see the world through the eyes of a child, as if seeing for the first time. I try to bring that sense of wonder to my photography.

Q: What did you do after getting that certification?

A: I did some weddings, worked for a commercial photographer, but I really didn’t want to do any of that. I fell in love, got married, had my first daughter, and needed a paying job instead of trying to make art with photography. So, I eventually took a finance position at Wright-Patt AFB and had a 31-year civilian career. I retired in 2007. Now I show my photography, and I sell it. But I’m not interested in commercial work.

How he works

Q: What kind of equipment do you use and what types of photographic processes do you use?

A: If you see a photo I’ve done, you can assume I’ve done everything from taking the photo to printing and framing it myself. I use large and medium format film cameras and digital cameras. Printing the photograph is an integral part of my work-flow — whether film or digital — as is developing the film. My love of printing led me into 19th century alternative photo processes such as cyanotype, gum bichromate, palladium, van dyke brown, and salt as well as traditional printmaking.

Q: Can you tell us a little about these rooms and all of this equipment you use in your work?

A: I built a darkroom wherever I lived over the last 40 years; six total. My current darkroom is also called a dim room when used for 19th century processes. I also have a light room — basically computers and inkjet printers for digital photography and scanning film.

I wasn’t able to afford my own large-format camera and lens until the early 1980s, so I used 35-mm equipment. The large format camera I now use was purchased in 1985. I also use digital cameras, and like everyone else, photograph with my phone. I’ve used an assortment of medium format cameras starting in the 90s.

Q: How would you describe the things you photograph, and why do they interest you?

A: Most of my photography reflects an interest in nature, landscape, urban environments and architecture. I enjoy finding rhythms, patterns and a different perspective while photographing. Often, my photo routine is to place myself somewhere with appeal, then just wander around and see what I find. Photography by wandering around is a great way to spend time.

For example, I went to Union Terminal in Cincinnati to photograph the art deco architecture. Or, I spent a week photographing the Oregon coastline, north to south. I’d done research so I knew exactly where I wanted to stop and wander. I don’t think there is anything novel about my routine, but it’s enjoyable and sometimes I return with a good photograph.

Printing photographs has always been an exciting undertaking. The print is the tangible result of the entire undertaking, and the only part that a viewer sees. Being able to print allows for many interpretations of the same image, and I’ve gone back to the same image many times with a different result in mind. With the ability to print in different processes, this multiplies again how many different results are available.

Q: What do you love about doing the art photography?

A: It gives me joy. Some people like to write; I have a son-in-law who lives to run marathons.

Q: Where has your work been shown?

A: In addition to Dayton art venues, I’ve exhibited at the Ohio Art League, Cleveland State University, Athens Dairy Barn Art Center, ROY G BIV gallery in Columbus, Huntington Museum in W.V., and Robeson Gallery at Penn State University. I’ve done a few outdoor art festivals but didn’t care for the venue. Photographs don’t hold up well in rain.

Q: I know you spent years at the Cannery, what were those like for you? What did you do after that?

A: The CADC venue provided the opportunity to talk with folks about my work, sharpen sales skills and work with other artists on collaborative projects. After that I started doing workshops on 19th century photographic based processes. Ironically, 19th century printing processes are facilitated by using 21st century tools to create a digital negative or positive for contact printing.

All of these 19th century processes predate Mr. Kodak’s invention of film in 1880, and for the most part have been kicked to the dustbin of history. There is a small cadre of photographers worldwide that work with these processes today — they are time-consuming and require the use of a darkroom and associated skills. Paper is not available commercially so one is required to hand coat watercolor paper. One has to photograph with negatives the size of the print or make digital negatives on an ink-jet printer. All of these factors tend to discourage most from trying them. I’ve always enjoyed the “process” aspect of photography, so continuing to learn new processes is a natural way for me to work.

Q: Can you talk about your association with DVAC?

A: I’m a member of DVAC and support their mission because I enjoy visual arts and artists. A number of times, I’ve met an artist long after I’ve seen and admired their work. I now have a face to go along with the art. Many times those encounters are at DVAC or because of DVAC exhibitions.

DVAC is a unique arts organization in that it supports all Dayton regional visual artists and art lovers. Everyone is welcome and the environment isn’t stuffy or pretentious. It provides a home for the visual arts and artists of all skill levels, plus exhibiting, educational and community outreach activities. If Dayton is to prosper or become a vital city again, it will be due to small-size endeavors that give folks a reason to live or visit downtown and in the process create community. DVAC is doing its part, helping Dayton become a strong city again.

Q: How long have you been donating items to the auction and why do you do that?

A:. I’ve participated for the last 11 years. It’s not an entirely altruistic endeavor on my part. It sounds corny to say donating makes me feel good, but it does.

Q: What are you donating this year?

A: The photo shows the Little Miami River with a reflection of the far bank, after spring rain in April, as it courses through the south end of John Bryan State Park outside of Yellow Springs. It’s a photograph I printed at 24-by-36 inch on canvas and stretched on bars. I titled it “clouds in my coffee,” snatching the phrase from a Carly Simon song. To me, the title suggests contemplation and not quite being able to clearly understand a current situation. Kind of like most of life.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I try to not take myself or my work too seriously. The enthusiasm I felt for photography in 1972 is what I attempt to retain on a daily basis.

Our Sunday Chats take you behind the scenes and help you get to know the people who are making a difference through the arts across our region. Today, we share our conversation with photographer Doug Taylor, whose work will be up for bid at the DVAC annual auction next weekend.

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