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Thursday, Jul 09, 2020

A Few Clouds, 92 °F

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This portrait of alumnus Thomas Schiff and his Hulcherama camera was taken in OHIO’s Wolf Garden during the celebration of the acquisition of the Libraries’ three-millionth item — a panoramic photograph of Alden Library taken by Schiff in June 2009.

This portrait of alumnus Thomas Schiff and his Hulcherama camera was taken in OHIO’s Wolf Garden during the celebration of the acquisition of the Libraries’ three-millionth item — a panoramic photograph of Alden Library taken by Schiff in June 2009.

Photographer: Sherri DiBari/Ohio University Libraries

Thomas Schiff’s Hulcherama 360 captures a 360-degree range of vision, and an impressive snapshot of everything that surrounds the camera.

Thomas Schiff’s Hulcherama 360 captures a 360-degree range of vision, and an impressive snapshot of everything that surrounds the camera.

Photographer: John Michael Simpson/Ohio University Libraries

This panoramic photograph by Thomas Schiff is of The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, Illinois campus. The library, which features a towering glass oval dome, is one of the images featured in the Libraries exhibit.

This panoramic photograph by Thomas Schiff is of The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago, Illinois campus. The library, which features a towering glass oval dome, is one of the images featured in the Libraries exhibit.

Photographer: Thomas Schiff

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OHIO alumnus returns to campus to showcase panoramic photography

Thomas Schiff to be interviewed at March 30 Authors@Alden event


Alden Library is preparing to welcome home an Ohio University alumnus whose panoramic photography is featured in collections throughout the United States. 

On March 30, Alden Library will open its latest exhibit and host an Authors@Alden conversation with the OHIO alumnus behind the exhibit. 

Titled “Viewing Libraries: The Panoramic Photographs of Thomas R. Schiff,” the exhibit, which will be located in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of the Library, will feature 14 panoramic photos taken by Thomas Schiff, a 1970 OHIO graduate. The photos are all included in Schiff’s latest book, “The Library Book,” which showcases panoramic photos of libraries from across the country, including OHIO’s own Alden Library. The exhibit also features all of Schiff’s panoramic photography books, as well as other books about panoramic photography from Alden’s rare book and fine arts collections.

“It’s very special to be able to bring back an alumnus because it demonstrates that the relationship people have with the University is often life-long,” said Sara Harrington, head of Art and Archives for University Libraries and one of the curators of the Schiff exhibit. “It establishes the continued relevance of the University in the life of its alumni.”

A native of Cincinnati, Schiff studied photography while earning a bachelor of business administration degree from Ohio University. 

“When I studied photography at OHIO, I always enjoyed a large format camera and I gravitated toward man-made structures,” said Schiff. “About 25 years ago, I started experimenting with a panoramic camera and that’s been my focus ever since. A lot of panoramic photographers focus on nature, so the subject matter of my photographs is what makes them unique.”

Schiff’s work is featured in museum collections throughout the United States, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Center for Photography, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Art Museum. He has published seven books and founded FotoFocus, a lens-based art biennial held in Cincinnati.

“I have a friend who’s an architect, and he recommended buildings across the country I should photograph. As I travelled to different cities, I would track down the 14 or 15 buildings on my list,” said Schiff. “Two or three from each would be separated into different categories, which would then become the subjects for my books.”

Alden Library houses some of Schiff’s photographs, and his panoramic photograph of Alden Library was the three millionth item added to the Library’s collection.

“Events like this are important because the Library is part of the life of the campus, and we want to be its academic and cultural heart and extend that relationship into the Athens community,” said Harrington. “We want the Library to be a place where they see their own experience reflected and engage with things with which they don’t have experience.”

“It’s great to come back and see the campus as I remember it from my time in Athens,” said Schiff. “All the people are different, so it’s good to meet new friends and get to know them. It’s really rewarding working with the people at Alden; they’re great people doing a great job.”

As part of the exhibit’s unveiling, Schiff will sit down with Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian and another curator of the Schiff exhibit, for an Authors@Alden interview. That event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 30 in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of Alden Library.

“I’m excited to hear more about how he got into panoramic photography, how he learned it, and how it has become his ‘thing,’” said Intrator. “I’m also interested in the evolution of his work—how he’s chosen the locations or the subjects he’s photographed. I’m very interested in his process.”

While panoramic photos have become more commonplace with the addition of panorama to cell phone cameras, the scale and quality of Schiff’s work allow viewers to witness something new.

“The size of the prints is so large that it’s a different viewing experience than a lot of people have with panoramic photos,” said Harrington. “So we’re excited to see how they look in the space and how people respond to them.”

Following its opening, Schiff’s exhibit will remain on display for the remainder of the semester.

“I would tell people to attend the event for a chance to see what libraries look like from around the country,” said Schiff. “Libraries are a repository of our culture. They are where people go to get answers about jobs, life, just about everything in the universe.”

“Events like this can provide a pause for students who might be rushing through the Library,” said Intrator. “They might notice something they’ve never seen before. That would certainly be the case with these photographs because they’re so large and visually striking. We hope students attend the Authors@Alden event and take a study break to come view the exhibit.”