Yesterday I took my photography students to see Storm, Watershed & Riverbank, an exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute commemorating the catastrophic 1913 flood in the Dayton region. The first section, Storm: Paintings by April Gornik, consists of gorgeous, large-scale paintings of land & seascapes, that really evoke a sense of an impending storm (photography is not allowed in this section). The next section, which was our focus, is Watershed: 100 Years of Photography along the Great Miami River. This section pairs historic photographs of the flood with modern images (created by photography Andy Snow) that show a contemporary view of the same spot. It also contains several displays/signs with some really fascinating information about photography at the time–while it is obvious that photography 100 years ago was much more of a challenging process, it doesn’t quite hit you, until you see the equipment they were using and images of photographers standing on roofs to capture images of the flood water, how much more involved (and dangerous!) it was to create images 100 years ago, especially during a major catastrophe. The last section, Riverbank: Exploring Our River-Centered Development, has a lot of information about past & current development along the river in many area communities, and invites visitors to contribute their ideas about what they’d like to see along the riverfront.
I’ll admit, even as a life-long Daytonian, I didn’t realize the extent of the devastation of the flood, and the pairing of the old & new photographs provide a really great perspective to how things were rebuilt, and how they have changed in the region in the last 100 years. For anyone with an interest in the Dayton region/history (especially if you are into photography!), I would definitely recommend a visit (the exhibits run through May 5).