Project Release: Stephen Tomasko

fototazo continues posting new photography projects, providing a first look at work from select artists. Today's Project Release is Stephen Tomasko's First Place and Our Congratulations. Other recent Project Releases include Alejandro Cartagena's Car Poolers and Gregory Halpern's A.

Stephen Tomasko photographs at the intersection of the natural and manmade worlds. He has created bodies of work with subjects as diverse as the life and landscape of the American city streets and Midwest county fairs, the stark reality of the big steel and auto industries, and pristine blooming gardens. Tying the work together is a vision of carefully seen straight photography, presented full-frame, with minimal processing.

Tomasko’s work has been exhibited in solo shows for over 20 years. Selected recent solo venues include The University of Michigan Matthaei Gallery, Ann Arbor, Michigan (2009), The Little Gallery, Bowling Green State University, Huron, Ohio (2010), and The Guren Gallery at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens (April 2012). Also, a group of images from his “Winter Was Hard” portfolio was recently added to the permanent collection of The Akron Art Museum. Some examples of these were displayed, along with work by Imogen Cunningham, Andre Kertesz and others, at the museum in the show “Flora” from July to October 2011.

He graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1988 with a B.A. in Art History, and the University of Delaware with an M.F.A. (Photography) in 1991 and has taught at the University of Delaware, Cecil College (Maryland), and Neumann College (Pennsylvania).

Stephen lives with his wife and daughter outside of Akron, Ohio.

A statement on the work follows the images.


Project Statement: First Place and Our Congratulations is a reflection on youth and on competition, set within the microcosm of sixteen Midwest county fairs.

These temporary, annually occurring encampments provide the perfect stages, rich with characters and detail beyond my imaginings, on which to consider the processes of both growing up and measuring up, to parents and judges, to peers, and to the past. They are hyper-competitive with games, contests and seemingly endless ribbon opportunities.

Many of the "Junior Fair" competitions are also alternately intensely physical and mind-numbingly dull, with stakes that are really very high. For example, the participant with the champion piece of livestock in each category will receive a prize ribbon most likely supplemented by a significant premium being paid by a sponsor to send the entry to the dinner table.

Life and death, winning and losing, it's all right here to see for the cost of a ticket. Life on the midway isn't much easier. Its cast of characters, as carefully primped as the livestock in the arenas, also compete in their own way for notice and respect. Hoping to fit in, while somehow standing out. Staking their turf, another year older. Dreaming of hearing their name, somewhere, some day, preceded by the call, "First place and our congratulations."