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May 17, 2013

HMA to present exhibit of Levi Holley Stone photographs

The Huntington Museum of Art will feature 80 photographs by Levi Holley Stone in a new exhibit titled The Herald-Dispatch Presents: Looking Back: Huntington through the Lens of Levi Holley Stone.

This exhibit goes on view May 25 and continues through Aug. 18, 2013, at HMA. Emmy Award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker John Witek will lead a Gallery Walk through the exhibit as part of the Fourth Tuesday Tour at 7:15 p.m. June 25, 2013. Admission is free. A reception follows.

Levi Holley Stone (1898-1981), historical Huntington's "unknown" photographer, has at last been discovered. Local resident John Witek purchased more than 1,000 negatives by Stone at a local flea market. At the time, Witek was unaware of Stone's photographs (as was just about everyone outside of Stone's family) and had no way of knowing that he had stumbled upon an undiscovered cache of unique images taken by a self-taught photographer with great vision.

"Before photography was considered an art, Stone was creating masterworks with a $20 vest pocket Kodak," Witek said. "If you ever wondered what Huntington was really like in the good old days, you'll see for yourself in these stunning pictures."

Caught up in the amateur photography craze that began at the end of the 19th century with the invention of the Kodak camera, Stone, like most amateur photographers, took many pictures of family and friends. But, as Witek realized after enlarging Stone's small negatives, these were not your typical family photos. The photographer had a good eye and composed his shots artfully.

Many of Stone's images portray people and places encountered in Huntington from as early as 1912 and into the 1940s. These include shots of crowds during parades down Third Avenue, automobiles and gas stations, luncheonettes, pool halls, public monuments, vaudeville entertainers, movie theaters, and much more.

They anticipate the generation of "street" and "documentary" photographers such as Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus. They are not only interesting historically; many stand on their own as works of art.

In 2011, Witek introduced the work of Levi Holley Stone to staff at the Huntington Museum of Art. Soon the decision was made (with the blessing of Stone's descendants) to host an exhibit of 80 selected photographs.

Local photographer Sholten Singer has scanned and/or digitally photographed the negatives, which will be printed by the Huntington Museum of Art. Local Historian James Casto and Witek will identify places and people in the photographs.

This exhibit is presented by The Herald-Dispatch; and sponsored by the Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment; the West Virginia Division of Culture and History; and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts; In Memory of Charlotte and Albert Boos; In Memory of Mrs. Susie Bernev Fatzinger; and In Memory of Carney and Margaret M. Layne.

For more information on events at HMA, visit www.hmoa.org or call (304) 529-2701. HMA is fully accessible.

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