By Shane Barnes
Cincinnati photographer and Ohio University alumnus Thomas Schiff has donated more than 50 of his most recent works to the Kennedy Museum of Art's permanent collection.
The panoramic photos -- a hallmark of Schiff's work -- showcase some of the country's most recognized architectural sites and structures, including New York's Times Square, Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings and the Las Vegas strip. The photos make up Schiff's current exhibit at the Kennedy, "Interiors, Exteriors and All Around,'' and will be on display through Jan. 18.
"I always like to go to places people are familiar with and show the perspective from a panoramic camera," Schiff said. "The camera distorts everything in the picture -- straight lines become curved and it throws off your perspective. It challenges your relationship to what is familiar or thought to be understood."
Schiff's custom Hulcherama camera rotates to create a panoramic view of the location, capturing every object in front, back and to the sides of it. The resulting image warps lines and, Schiff said, forces the viewers to reevaluate their perceptions of the world.
During a gallery talk on Saturday, Schiff demonstrated that perspective by following the horizontal edge of the ceiling with his finger and explaining how his hand doesn't trace a straight line, but moves in an arc.
Placement of the camera is key to capturing the image, he said.
"If I set up in the corner like other photographers, half my photo would be of the room and the other half would just be wall -- I have to get the camera in the center of the action," Schiff said.
In Las Vegas, Schiff said he often had to wait until 4 a.m. to photograph so that he would not capture late-night or early morning gamblers in the shot -- a requirement of casino management. Las Vegas locations featured in the exhibit include the MGM Grand, Caesar's Palace and Venetian casinos.
To capture Wright's architecture, Schiff traveled to between 90 and 100 of the architect's sites. Among the prints included in the exhibit are the Annie M. Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College and the First Christian Church in Phoenix, Ariz.
Schiff, a lifelong lover of photography, said he became fascinated with cameras when he was in grade school. He continued with his hobby and originally majored in photography at Ohio University before switching to business. He graduated in 1970.
He is currently chairman of the board and CEO of John J. & Thomas R. Schiff & Co. Inc., a life, property and casualty insurance agency in Cincinnati.
Admission and parking to the Kennedy Museum of Art is free. More of Schiff's pictures can be found in his three previously published books, "Panoramic Cincinnati," "Panoramic Ohio" and "Panoramic Parks of Cincinnati."