He was born in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1909, but lived much of his life in Bloomington, Indiana, where he taught photography at Indiana University. Before that Henry Holmes Smith taught at Chicago's famed New Bauhaus, which later became the School of Design, then the Institute of Design, and finally a part of IIT. On view this weekend as part of a special exhibit of photographs made by instructors and students of the School of Design is this exquisite untitled "light study" by Smith from 1946. It was shot through a specially constructed wooden box with removable sides that admitted light, often through various screens and mesh scrims that gave the light pattern and texture. Inside the box small objects could be placed to interact with the light. The fact that it's impossible to tell what you're looking at in this photo is part of the point. What isn't usually apparent from reproductions is the photo's deep velvet black, which gives the patterns of light an almost musical vibrancy.
"Light and Vision: Photography at the School of Design in Chicago, 1937-'52," mounted by dealer Stephen Daiter at this year's Chicago Photographic Print Fair, includes another Smith light study and 48 other vintage prints by 30 photographers once connected with the school. Also at the fair, now in its fifth year, will be exhibits presented by 29 other dealers and many special events. It runs 6 to 9 Friday, noon to 6 Saturday, and noon to 5 Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. A weekend pass is $15 starting Friday or $10 starting Saturday or Sunday. Call 708-328-6994 for more.