Local photographer’s exhibit spans over 50 years


Local photographer Jeff Sprang has shared some of his favorite photos for a public exhibit spanning more than 50 years at the Pearl Conard Art Gallery at The Ohio State University Mansfield, now through Dec. 7, called “Light and Time.”

His photographs span multiple careers, photos taken as an Ohio State student, news photos taken as a News Journal photographer and photos he took from his own operating photography studio.

He has photographed more than 1,000 weddings over more than 40 years while operating his own business, Jeff Sprang Photography on Ohio 603 in Shiloh.

There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t see a good photo or take a photograph. Of course, his wife Linda and family have been his subjects throughout the years. He said he regrets not documenting a series of photographs of the way the news business operated in the 1970s.

‘There are pictures everywhere’

“Those photos are gone,” he said of the printing press and the hectic news business.

“There are pictures everywhere,” he said Tuesday from the gallery in Ovalwood Hall on the joint campus of Ohio State and North Central State College.

Recently retired from teaching photography from 1998 to spring 2022 at OSU Mansfield, Sprang is proud to say he can be called an associated faculty emeritus, a job he has enjoyed tremendously.

He said he did this photography show more for the students whom he had enjoyed teaching, always telling them to “try to make your pictures perfect.”

“They won’t be able to. They won’t be (perfect). None of mine are perfect, but I want them to try,” he said.

“There’s always something new to learn,” he said.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know Sprang, who grew up in northern Richland County and still lives on a 38-acre farm where he enjoys photographing nature.

His association with Ohio State began in 1969, as a first-year student at the Mansfield campus majoring in physics. He later graduated from OSU with a degree in photography and journalism. Sprang said when he took photography classes, they were held in the School of Engineering.

A photograph of University Hall on the Columbus campus of Ohio State from 1926 is included in his exhibit. It is the only photo on display that is not his. The image was created by his great uncle Gailord Sprang, who graduated from OSU in the late 1920s. Gailord studied electrical engineering and photography under Professor FH Haskett.

“When I attended OSU in the early 1970s, my photography classes were held in Haskett Hall,” he said.

After a 27-year career as a photojournalist both full and part-time at the Mansfield News Journal, he returned to OSU Mansfield, winning the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004 and again in 2021.

Photography career began on family farm

It all began when he created his first dark room at his family farmhouse when he was a student at Crestview Schools. One of the photographs in the exhibit is from the farmhouse, captured shortly after sunset, a comet high in the sky over the farm.

He said he’s learned from a lot of helpful people, including college professors, Otto Schmidt and Terry Wolf, both who were chief photographers at the News Journal back in the day, and News Journal photographer Jim Bikar.

“I don’t think there’s one photographic thing that I wanted to do that I couldn’t figure out if I tried hard enough,” he said. “I’m not saying, ‘Oh look at me.’ Because the resources are there,” he added.

Sprang said he was hired as a part-time photographer at the News Journal and switched his major to photography and journalism after the experience of taking news photos piqued his interest.

“I really got the bug for this,” he said.

He said he got his full time News Journal job, got married and graduated from college, all in June of 1973. He had his own photography studio beginning in 1973. He left the News Journal in 1997. The photography studio is now closed and he has retired. Sprang soon began teaching photography at Ashland University before coming to teach photography in 1998 at OSU Mansfield.

The exhibit shows a diverse range of photographs

As with any newspaper photographer, some of his favorite “shots” are from breaking news events in this exhibit, including a crash, a burning building in Galion, and a group of photographs he calls, “The Great Monkey Chase” from 1978. Many are photographed in black and white.

“The lady’s pet monkey had bitten her and then escaped. The Mansfield police had no success in capturing the monkey, but a neighbor had worked at the circus and knew how to bring the fugitive to justice,” he said.

Photographs in the exhibit include an Amish barn raising in 1977, a Bathing Barn Swallow, and photographs of young people protesting in Washington DC at the second inauguration of President Richard Nixon. Sprang was still a college student when he took these photos.

Many of the photographs are from local subjects including the cast of “Hot Mess,” a play written by Michael Thomas and staged at the Renaissance Theater in 2016.

“It was a comic sendup of reality TV shows based on the Greek drama ‘Medea.’ The amazing cast members were all local,” Sprang said.

Other photos include a Cherokee bingo game in Cherokee, North Carolina, in 1983, which at the time was supposedly the world’s largest bingo game, he said.

And he has a photograph called, Carhenge, 2007.

“This is a real place in Alliance, Nebraska, not to be confused with the Cadillac Ranch in Texas. The photo is a 180 degree panorama created by stitching together three rows of 11 images each,” Sprang said.

Sprang enjoys the art of photography, from weddings to news to portraits and using a drone, finding ways to accomplish what he has in mind using technology and more.

One of his more technical photographs in the show, called “Two Simultaneous Views of the Same Water Drop Collision,” Sprang used an electronically controlled valve.

From darkrooms to digital photos

Sprang said his career has spanned everything from darkrooms to digital photographs. He’s ordered a new cell phone which he said can take a great picture, almost as good as a dedicated, professional camera. He’s anxiously awaiting its arrival.

While Sprang said he is enjoying retirement, he’s also already missing his students.

Gallery hours for autumn semester 2022 are Mondays 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, Tuesdays 11:30 am to 4 pm, Wednesdays 11:30 am to 2:50 pm, Thursdays, 12:30 to 4 pm, and Fridays 11 :30 am to 3:30 pm Admission is free.

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Twitter: @LWhitmir

This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Former NJ photographer Jeff Sprang said, “Pictures are everywhere.”

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