Otto Ping

Otto Ping

Photographer of Brown County, Indiana, 1900-1940

Book - 1994
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Blackwell North Amer
Otto Ping began taking pictures of the people and places of his native Brown County, Indiana, in 1900 at the age of seventeen in order to make some extra money. He continued doing so for forty years while he worked at such other endeavors as peddling, farming, canning, and chicken raising. Unlike the painters and photographers who came to the county in these years to capture quaint and rustic scenes for sophisticated audiences elsewhere, Ping made his pictures for the people who were in them.
Primarily a portraitist, Ping photographed individuals, couples, family groups, and larger gatherings. He had no studio and carried with him no lights or props. His portraits are characterized by hastily thrown up backdrops, stark lighting, and rigid poses. They have a documentary quality, and one senses in the faces that peer from these images the determination with which these people met lives of toil and hardship. Many of the portraits betray a sense of melancholy. Life was tenuous for both young and old, and the photographer often worked against time to provide a family with images of the living before his efforts became memorial. Ping photographed people at work and play. Images abound of stiffly posed groups in front of sawmills, churches, schools, and lodge halls; families in front of cabins or newly framed houses; couples with buggies; and children at play.
Otto Ping was not an artist or technician. His subjects are often awkwardly posed, and his exposures are inconsistent. He had little awareness of the historical significance of his photographs, but he cooperated with Professor Hartley in the late 1960s, a quarter century after he had quit taking pictures, to save them from destruction. Through the efforts of the Indiana Historical Society, Hartley, and Ping's children, the photographs are now a part of the society's visual collections.
This book offers a sampling of Ping's work with commentary by W. Douglas Hartley and essays by historians of photography Anne E. Peterson and Stephen J. Fletcher. "On his glass plates," writes Hartley, "Ping etched haunting scenes of a life-style that was slowly drifting toward extinction. . . . His legacy to us is a treasury of images that records forever the hardships, joy, pride, and labors of a group of people who were still pioneers."

Publisher: Indianapolis, Ind. : Indiana Historical Society, 1994
ISBN: 9780871951052
0871951053
Branch Call Number: 770.92 Hartley 1994
Characteristics: 94 pages : illustrations ; 22 x 26 cm

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