Tom Schiff’s panoramas of opulent museum interiors are dead gorgeous. The Cincinnati-based photographer’s current solo show at the Contemporary Arts Center is a culmination of years spent traveling cross-country capturing the interiors and exteriors of various museums through the lens of a Cirkut, an antique “full rotation” panoramic camera. The exhibition’s layout is smart and intuitive, and it manages not to feel overwhelming. So why can’t I stop thinking about real estate photos?
Real estate photography’s function is not just to sell buildings but also to sell fantasies of upward mobility. Their aesthetic (crisp, luminous, wide-angled) is optimized to that end: interiors become empty receptacles for our private fantasies. Schiff’s virtuosic photos are indeed more interesting than anything you’ll see in The Sunday Times, but I can’t shake the feeling they’re trying to sell me something: the American dream.
Tom Schiff: Surrounded By Art — Panoramic Views of America’s Landmark Museums is on view at the Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth St., Downtown) through March 1. More info: contemporaryartscenter.org.