The [Self-] Portraits of Akron: Going pro in the Selfie Age

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Photos by Shane Wynn
One of the great joys of doing something like The Devil Strip is the license to steal. I’ve habitually snagged the alt-mags and daily papers of every city I’ve visited since I was 18, incorporating many of my favorite ideas into this magazine you now hold. But the inspiration for this six-page spread was brought to me by one of our new columnists, Steve van Auken, who writes “The Trouble with Old People.”

 

He came to our office with an armload of old “roto magazines,” mostly copies of “Beacon,” the ABJ’s Sunday magazine. I was like a kid in a candy shop, flipping through these pages. I saw in them a similar editorial vision for what I hope to do with this magazine: provide both a mirror for the area’s creative side and a platform from which Akron’s creative voices can be heard.

 

Unfortunately, “Beacon Magazine” was shut down (for a second time) in 2000 to save money, according to Ohio.com. But one of the features they ran, in 1981, was too cool not to try. They set up a backdrop and lighting in the Summit Mall then gave people the remote so they could snap their own portraits. I wondered what that would look like in the post-selfie era when we’re all accustomed to turning the lens on ourselves. Fortunately, our friend and award-winning photographer Shane Wynn was wayyy on-board with the plan to apply her skills, which she’s used to take portraits of former Mayor Don Plusquellic, soul-singing beekeeper Wesley Bright and a whole series of Akron’s overlooked women for a Knight-funded art project called #Overlooked.

 

I think the results are pretty amazing. We set up at an Akron RubberDucks game during their Friday night “Akronites Unite” promotion. I couldn’t stop smiling as we watched folks loosen up and enjoy themselves, clicking away. Finally, our BIG THANKS to Christina Urycki, the whole RubberDucks crew and their fans for making this possible, and thank you to our squad — Sophie, Riddle and Christina — for running the show. Flip through these photos and tell me you don’t love Akron just a little more. I know we do. Thanks! – Chris H.

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