Then: In 1998, CityBeat featured photographer Brad Smith on its cover. Smith was hailed by Steve Ramos as a "guerilla photographer" who "pushes the envelope of erotic art." In a conservative town like Cincinnati, Smith, who regularly photographs nudes, has had his share of challenges. He butted heads with the Mother Superior of St. Ursula Academy and found himself defending the infamous Mapplethorpe exhibit on talk radio. For Smith, art isn't just a job. "It's more of a passion," he explained then. "It's not about a career. It's not just a job. It's my life." (Issue of Feb. 26, 1998)
Now: Photography is still Smith's life, and though he claims that not much has changed in the last six years he slowly reveals facts to the contrary.
"I'm still up to the same, mischievous things," Smith says. "Ramos made me out to be a guerilla photographer. I don't think I am. I don't consider what I do to be outrageous, but some would."
Smith's studio, Photosmith, has grown since 1998. At that time, he only had one full-time employee. Now he has two, plus three part-time staffers. He's seen a fair amount of client turnover in the commercial and editorial work he does, but Smith acknowledges that it's the nature of the business. His work as a wedding photojournalist has grown, and nearly half of his clientele comes from referrals. For that part of his life, the CityBeat cover story presented a small problem.
"A lot of people saw the cover from 1998," Smith explains. "One client showed her mom." He goes on to tell how the client's mother was concerned that Smith might not be the best photographer for her daughter's wedding and how she was worried Smith was going to ask her daughter to remove her clothing for the wedding pictures. "I think the mom would have been more comfortable without seeing the cover. The personal work is my own work. She got freaked out."
The controversy surrounding Smith's work hasn't stopped him from exhibiting it. He currently has an exhibition at NKU and is one of several photographers who will be featured in a show planned for this summer called Bare Witness, an event combining performance art and bodypainting for a "works-in-progress" feel. Smith also self-published a book in 2000, Brad A. Smith: Photographs from 1983-2000, that's been sold at the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum and Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
Currently, he's working on a collection of portraits, for which he received a fellowship from the state of Ohio. The collection is "slightly romantic in the patriotic sense," he explains. Each photo features a person with a flag somewhere in the picture. He has about 20 photos that he's happy with and hopes to shoot some more once the weather stays warm.
Ultimately, some things have changed. But one fact remains the same: Brad Smith is still pursuing his passion.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? updates cover stories from throughout CityBeat's 10-year history.