New Art Center exhibit brings ‘Grandpa’s Camera’ to life

Published 9:31 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

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A picture is worth a thousand words. And it’s photographer Maxwell Brick’s hope that his new exhibit, “Grandpa’s Camera,” sheds new light on his grandfather

Although Brick said he never saw Don Brick take a photo, he admitted as a kid his father always saw Don taking photos and had a camera with him everywhere.

Brick didn’t even know about the collection until his grandmother’s house experienced a fire roughly a decade ago and some pictures were destroyed. After collecting the rest, Brick’s mother decided to purchase a scanner and started scanning them. But it wasn’t until the last year or so the two really started looking through them.

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“We really didn’t do anything with them until eventually we were like, ‘You know what, these are really cool, I think they kind of need to be seen,’” he said.

He also saw the project as a way to study his family.

“I never knew he took these pictures until about a year or two ago,” Brick said. “I never got a reason why he took these pictures, but I’m glad he did.”

According to Brick, all photos displayed are from 1950 through ’58, and are from a variety of locations, including a hunting trip in Montana, New Orleans, Colorado, Faribault, Owatonna, Austin and Acapulco, Mexico.

Doing this has also brought new revelations to Brick.

“My grandpa was always kind of a quiet guy, so this was kind of a surprise to see that he was adventurous, he was traveling, clearly very sociable,” he said.

And seeing that different side to his grandfather was exciting, especially knowing he could travel to a variety of places.

“His friend was a pilot, and they would take his plane to a lot of these areas where the pictures are taken and go on trips,” he said.

Brick also learned his grandparents were adventurous people and that his grandfather was a “phenomenal photographer” with an eye for taking pictures at the right time. And most of the photos were not staged.

“It’s very candid, it’s very everybody living in the moment kind of thing,” he said.

Brick’s favorite was a photo his grandfather took in Acapulco showing a view of a bay with paddle-boarders and boats floating by, though he also enjoyed some hunting pictures, especially one with his grandfather holding a hunting gun and standing in front of mountains.

“He’s kind of Indiana Jones out there,” he said.

Making an exhibit, however, wasn’t something he considered. He certainly didn’t consider himself an artist.

But he started posting the photos to social media, where Charlene Marley, arts administrator at the Albert Lea Arts Center, came across them and asked if he’d consider doing a show.

Brick jumped at the chance.

“I was super surprised when Charlene asked me to [make an exhibit], but I was thrilled that she did,” he said. “I thought it was awesome, I thought it was a great place to show these off to people in my hometown of Albert Lea.”

It also made sense.

“What’s the good of having a bunch of pictures sit in the box for years — why not show them to people,” he said.

Posting photos online starts with placing the actual photos into slides, where he’ll scan them before touching them up. He’ll then save them on a USB drive. For the photos on display, he asked a print shop to print them.

In doing this, he hopes viewers will appreciate photographs that hadn’t been seen in a long time.

“I think there’s something really cool about old pictures, and the way people dressed, the way they did things,” he said. “There’s no phones, people had to take physical pictures.”

In total, Brick said there were about 700 photos, though only around 30 will be displayed. Scanning started in January, and it’s his hope the entire project would be completed by the end of the year.

“Grandpa’s Camera” opened Tuesday at the Albert Lea Art Center and runs through Aug. 12. There will be a reception for Brick from 5 to 7 p.m. July 15. The Art Center is at 101 S. Broadway Ave.

Images will be available for sale. Anyone interested in purchasing should contact the Art Center at 507-373-5665.