By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — A clown. Clinton High wrestlers. An expecting mother. A young Mozart.
These faces and more all peered through downtown storefronts Thursday. They’re there again today, too.
Looking back at them was photographer Jean Black. They are her way of saying “Hats off to the Future.”
“I call it a ‘walking photo gallery’ so people have an excuse to walk more,” Black said. “I started with only high school kids, but decided to expand it. It wound up making it better.”
After nearly a year of preparation and hundreds of clicks of her camera shutter, Black has given passersby something different to look at while they go about their days downtown. Black photographed more than 170 young subjects — from infants to high school seniors — in an attempt to capture what makes Clinton’s youth tick. She staged a series of photo shoots at her church and home starting last May.
Now her work is open for everyone in a photography exhibit that covers 10 different blocks through 200 black and white poster-sized portraits.
“I asked the kids to somehow demonstrate what they’re passionate about,” Black said. “Maybe they’re into Legos, or music. I see a lot of people out walking and looking at them. It’s nice because we’ve had good weather. They’re out enjoying it and they have something nice to look at.”
A Clinton resident for the last three decades, Black said she always wanted to pick up photography. Only 10 years ago did she finally get her chance. Through courses at Clinton Community College, Black obtained a professional knowledge of the craft.
For her work, she covered her own expenses for the months of time involved as well as printing costs, totaling roughly $1,500. The Downtown Clinton Alliance, Core-Vens, Iowa Rep. Mary Wolfe, De Ja Vu Furniture and Accessories, and St. Paul Lutheran Church helped Black defer costs through donations and grants. As a result, downtown visitors have received a free art exhibit.
Business owners have welcomed her exhibit with open arms.
“It’s a way we support downtown and the community,” said Tim Clark, owner of Zirckelbach Home Appliances on Fifth Avenue South. “People have been visiting and walking around downtown and the feedback has been very positive.”
The benefit for Black is simply art for the sake of it.
“I call this temporary art, and I like the idea of temporary art because why get tired of stuff?” she said.
“Hats off to the Future” can be seen on Main Avenue, portions of north and south Second Street, three blocks on Fifth Avenue South, Sixth Avenue South and Seventh Avenue South.
Black said she is awaiting another inspiration to tackle similar projects in the future.
The map below shows where the photo exhibits are located.