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Local creatives picture city after decade of change

Thompson & Swartz are gratified to see the end result of this city-wide project displayed for all to enjoy.
Thompson & Swartz are gratified to see the end result of this city-wide project displayed for all to enjoy.

The 10 year anniversary of the Fort Wayne 1x1 Photo Project will be celebrated with an exhibit at Wunderkammer Company which opens Jan. 6.

After a successful launch in 2012, project head Cara Lee Wade was happy to see interest in this community-wide endeavor continue to blossom, ensuring its revival which the group’s Steering Committee activated in 2022.

This past year’s activity saw an increase in participating photographers from 10 to over 50 with a final tally of 700 images to show for their efforts.

For this showing, the collection has been curated to 120 pieces, although all 700 works may be viewed electronically on gallery monitors.

WBOI’s Julia Meek discusses the mission behind this monumental initiative, the perspectives revealed by such an undertaking and what gallery goers can expect with steering committee members Dan Swartz and Theresa Thompson.

Event Information:

1x1 Photo Exhibit Opening Reception
@ Wunderkammer Company, Fort Wayne
Friday, Jan. 6
5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Exhibition runs through Sunday, Feb. 5. For more information visit the Fort Wayne 1X1 Photo Project Facebook page.

Below is a transcript of our conversation:

Julia Meek: Teresa Thompson, Dan Swartz, welcome.

Theresa Thompson: Hello.

Dan Swartz: Hello.

Julia Meek: So your revival of that fort Wayne Photo Project after 10 years is now complete. Very briefly, Theresa, would you recap your mission with this project?

Theresa Thompson: it was just to see the city, to get around and go to places that you wouldn't normally go and to document it and share with everybody.

Julia Meek: All parts of the city too, quite literally.

Theresa Thompson: All Parts.

Julia Meek: Okay, physically how many photographers were involved during these two time periods and what do you have to show for your work?

Theresa Thompson: The first time we did it, there was a handful of people, maybe 10. And this time there was over 50, we opened it up to anybody who wanted to participate over the age of 16.

Julia Meek: And this was pretty much done once a month, city all set up in grids. So grid by grid, you have visited, photographed and now revisited these locations, noting the changes--is that the biggest part of why you wanted to come back in and shoot after 10 years?

Theresa Thompson: I think just to revisit, the project was so good, we just felt there were aspects that we could have done better, done differently, or taken pictures of things that we didn't do before.

Dan Swartz: One of the differences from the first round to the second round also was the way that we created the maps. It was all of Allen County broken up into 12 "chunks." And I remember the first time that it just sort of almost randomly because we didn't want to have a bias kind of towards them. But that did create some areas where there was too much in one chunk and not enough and another so we did chart these different areas this time a little bit differently.

Julia Meek: Make them a little more equal?

Dan Swartz: Yeah.

Julia Meek: Okay, with all of that, let's start right there. What has changed and what hasn't, by your own pictures?

Theresa Thompson: A lot has changed. I mean, one of the big things was I think Lutheran hospital is gone now and it was there before. So there's a lot that's changed.

Julia Meek: And speaking of changes, what about the equipment being used for taking pictures as well as who's taking the pictures?

Theresa Thompson: There's a lot more cell phones being used. But a lot of people used analog photography, still shot film, and a lot of people shot digital cameras so there's a huge variety. In fact, there was even one person who shot analog pictures and then stitched on them after she was done.

Julia Meek: That's quite a creative endeavor. And that's the point of all of this?

Theresa Thompson: Exactly, yes, a huge variety, people shooting the same things, and it being from different perspectives.

Julia Meek: So you're gathering methods, how did you get the pictures once you had these grids made up and let people know that you were shooting? How did that work?

Theresa Thompson: Every month, you would find out like right before the month started what the grid was, and then you could choose how you were going to go out and photograph it. You would go out and shoot your images and then everyone was asked to narrow it down to five of your best images.

People share them on Instagram and Facebook. So you could see the five images every month that everyone had shot. Some people shot every month and some people shot as little as one month.

Julia Meek: What did the monthly meeting in the field like that do for the scope of this project would you say?

Theresa Thompson: I think it just kept everyone motivated to keep going.

Dan Swartz: And that was something that we found the first time around, just naturally, some people are going to be more consistent than other people. And so we wanted to try to get a social aspect to it to maybe encourage people to keep going throughout the full 12 months, instead of dropping off.

I think that it did have a more social component this time around that can be seen in some of the photographs and just the volume of photographs that we got this time around too.

Julia Meek: Okay, so as the project matured and blossomed, you had to figure and plan the best practices for sharing this work. When did you start to really feel pressed upon because you had so many wonderful images there? Oh, my goodness, what are we going to do with them? And how did you solve that problem?

Dan Swartz: That was one of the differences this time around, too. So the first round of Fort Wayne, 1x1 was primarily on Tumblr, and we really collected the images rather late in the project. And so just going into the second round, we knew the collection and the sharing and encouraging people to see what was already photographed was important.

Also, just technology and our social media options are different this time. So Facebook and Instagram were really integrated into the second round from the beginning. So we also kind of developed an audience this time around in a different way, then the first round.

Julia Meek: That's exciting.

Theresa Thompson: Mmhmmm.

Julia Meek: So you had that interim which is 10 years to get ready for all of this as we're going to be realizing real soon. You did get ready. So now what happens and how?

Dan Swartz: So the next step of this project is opening the exhibition site, so the full year of this 10 year anniversary of Fort Wayne 1x1 resulted in over 700 images total. That is too many images for one exhibition. (chuckles)

So due to the process of kind of whittling that down, we wanted to make sure to bring other voices. And so we had judges throughout the community who helped us curate that 700 down to 120, which is still a significant exhibition.

So that will be opening on Friday, January 6th at Wunderkammer Company, and that will mark the 10 years of the first exhibition from Fort Wayne 1x1, which was our first exhibition at Wunderkammer.

Julia Meek: This is the big 10 year...

Dan Swartz: A fun celebration...Yeah. And then we will have all 700 images on view, but it'll be 120 images that are printed in the gallery in a large format, and then the remainder of the images we'll have cycling through on a monitor so that you can see every image that was taken.

Julia Meek: So what can gallery goers expect to do and share on that opening evening, besides be overwhelmed by these photographs?

Dan Swartz: Yeah, so the exhibition will be up through February 5, but plan some time to sit with the exhibition because of the volume of images. Also that opening night, meet the photographers, talk to the photographers about their work.

Julia Meek: Now I am kind of curious. Did this ever feel like too much of a good thing? Teresa, you're a photographer as well as on this committee so you had to do so much of this. How are you able to consolidate this wealth of material into a single... well, anything, so that you can wrap your head around it and figure out what's to do next?

Theresa Thompson: Well, it was really good I think that the project forced you to go into places; I've lived here all my life and places that I had never gone before.

It was fun to shoot with other people and sort of plan kind of where you were going to go. And we found a lot of places just serendipitously.

Julia Meek: Okay, now as a steering committee member, you also had to wrestle this whole collection into the gallery, what was the most daunting part would you say about having so many wonderful images?

Theresa Thompson: Narrowing it down to only 120 to show. That was really hard. But luckily, we had people who didn't participate in the project, who narrowed it down to the 120. People who didn't know who took the images, it was totally anonymous. So it was fair for everybody.

Julia Meek: So now let's talk about your amazing results and impressions, and just how well your expectations were fulfilled. First of all, were they fulfilled?

Theresa Thompson: Yes, I think so.

Dan Swartz: Yeah.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.