COLUMBUS — Born in Washington County, Ohio, photographer Albert Ewing traveled the Appalachian countryside at the turn of the 20th century and captured the daily lives of the people that lived and worked in Southeast Ohio and West Virginia and along the Ohio River.
The Ohio Historical Society, 800 E 17th Ave., Columbus, Ohio, unveiled its new exhibit on Ewing’s work, Faces of Appalachia: Photographs by Albert J. Ewing, Jan. 9 at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, Ohio: .
“Ewing is an impressive, thoughtful photographer whose collection tells the story of several Appalachian communities at the turn of the century,” said Sharon Dean, director of museum and library services for the Ohio Historical Society.
“We must remember that photography was still a novelty and a luxury for many communities across the nation. Without Ewing’s efforts, we might not have this superb visual record of Appalachian life.”
Open until Dec. 29, Faces of Appalachia will feature:
♦ More than 200 images from the Ewing collection that document the everyday life of Appalachian residents.
♦ Ewing’s original glass plate negatives, which have never been seen by the public before.
♦ An interactive 1890s photography studio, complete with props and vintage clothing, where visitors can create their own old-time photographs with their own phones or cameras.
♦ A hands-on storyboard area where visitors can search through photos mounted on magnetic sheets, post them on a board, and create their own captions or stories.
“What’s fascinating about this exhibit is that it gives visitors a chance to ponder everyday experiences and how they’ve changed and not changed since the 1890s,” said Lisa Wood, curator of visual resources for the Ohio Historical Society.
“Ewing took the type of photos that we regularly see today on Facebook and in family albums: shots of family reunions, school photo-days, landscapes, and the ever-popular subject of pets. This similarity prompts the question, ‘how different are we from these faces of Appalachia?’”
A selection of Ewing’s photographs can be viewed online by visiting www.ohiohistory.org/ohiopix and searching for “Albert Ewing.” For more information about the Ewing exhibit or other exhibits currently on display at the Ohio History Center, call 800-686-1545 or visit www.ohiohistory.org/exhibits/ohio-history-center-exhibits.
Most of the people in Albert Ewing’s photographs are unidentified, but Ohio Historical Society curators know the photographs were primarily taken in small towns in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia.
“We all have a part in the history of this area and Ohio. We invite everyone, particularly those in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia, to see the exhibit and help us identify the people of Ewing’s photographs,” said Jean Yost, board member for the Friends of the Museums, the managing organization for the Campus Martius Museum and Ohio River Museum.
If anyone has any information about individuals in the photographs or the location of the photographs share that with museum staff when visiting the exhibit or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of Albert J. Ewing’s life is undocumented, which is perhaps typical for an itinerant photographer at the turn of the 20th century. Ewing was born Nov. 27, 1870 in Adams Township in Washington County, Ohio. He was the second child of a family that would eventually include at least eight children.
He likely received at least a basic education as the 1880 census reports him being “at school.” He worked as a photographer for most of his adult life primarily traveling along the Ohio River and in central West Virginia.
There is no indication that Ewing ever married or had any children. He died in 1934 and is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Lowell, Ohio with his family.