Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

‘Moving Image Show’ parades Newport’s history across windows of Pacific Maritime Heritage Center

The 12-minute show, free and visible from the Bayfront, brings to life images of Native Americans, loggers, fishing fleets, and farmers.

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The "Moving Image Show" at Newport's Pacific Maritime Heritage Center incorporates 54 images of people ranging from the turn-of-the-century through the 1980s
The “Moving Image Show” at Newport’s Pacific Maritime Heritage Center incorporates 54 images ranging from the turn-of-the-century through the 1980s.

Visitors to Newport’s Bayfront rarely want for interesting sights. There’s the fishing fleet, Yaquina Bay Bridge, seals and sea lions, the occasional pod of orcas and all manner of birds. And now, something new to sweeten the view – a look into the past. The Moving Image Show, projected on the windows of the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, features dozens of animated photos of Lincoln County the way it used to be. It can be viewed from Bayfront sidewalks free of charge from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays* through the spring.

The show was inspired by similar shows the Lincoln County Historical Society‘s executive director, Susan MG Tissot, viewed in other areas.

“I got the original idea from San Francisco artist Ben Wood,” Tissot said. “Ben did a similar type of show with historic images on the windows of the Cliff House when it closed.” In addition, Tissot said she saw a similar installation about 15 years ago by Jackie Peterson, a history professor at Washington State University, in Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown area, with historic images of Chinatown residents projected onto windows of a building near what is now the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Tissot reached out to maritime center volunteer and artist Carol Shenk, who agreed to take on the project. She developed the first show last year. With a theme of the changing landscape, she add text for context, along with animation to help draw the viewer in.

Artist Carol Shenk, who put together the "Moving Image Show," compares the show to reading a novel. "I was trying to make it more about regular people so that when people are viewing the projection, they can imagine what life had been like," she says.
Artist Carol Shenk, who put together the “Moving Image Show,” compares the show to reading a novel. “I was trying to make it more about regular people so that when people are viewing the projection, they can imagine what life had been like,” she says.

“Last year, I learned it was harder to see from the street,” said Shenk, who was previously an archivist for the City of Seattle. “Ambient light from the crabbing fleet and even moisture in the air can make it difficult to make out the figures and objects in the photos from the street below.”

This year, as she worked to overcome those technical issues, help came from an unexpected source. Feeling stuck, Shenk took a break and opened her recent issue of American Craft magazine. She found a feature on “crankies,” an early American folk tradition that involved pulling scrolls of paper illustrated with silhouettes across a light box.

“When I saw the story on the crankies, it was immediately clear that this would give me a visual theme for the sequence and also help with the visibility,” Shenk said. “They make a big difference in grounding the viewer in the images when visibility isn’t perfect. They also create a sort of rhythm to the whole series of images. You know something is going to happen, and there is curiosity and expectation in watching each image develop. I feel it helps bring the photos to life in a way.”

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PPH Passing Strange

This year’s Moving Image Show is roughly 12 minutes long and features about 54 images of people ranging from the turn-of-the-century through the 1980s. Images include Native American families, fishermen, loggers, early settlers, and farmers. Some are as simple as a woman sitting alone, quilting, or as daring as a man atop the unfinished Yaquina Bay Bridge.

“I was really struck by images where you can relate to the person in the photos and kind of imagine their perspective,” Shenk said. “It’s like reading a novel. I was trying to make it more about regular people so that when people are viewing the projection, they can imagine what life had been like. In the image of the logging of huge spruce trees, I was just struck by the expression on the man’s face. You can see the awe. That photo just floored me.”

Carol Shenk says an image of a dead shark is among those showing how our relationship to nature has changed. “Hopefully, we have reverence or least more care in what we take and what we destroy.”

Shenk tried to include a range of experiences, along with different classes of people and society. Images like the massive spruce tree and a likewise large dead shark show how our relationship to nature has changed over the years, she said. “Both those pictures are really striking. Hopefully, we have reverence or least more care in what we take and what we destroy.”

In combing through the Lincoln County Historical Society’s collection of nearly 10,000 photos from both private collections and professional studios, Shenk found herself intrigued by the way settlers changed the landscape and the history of the Indigenous people who were moved to the reservation here; how towns were built, homesteads established, and commerce developed. “Newport was first a tourist area and then became a commercial fishing port,” she said, “which is the reverse of what you would expect.”

Shenk is already planning next year’s show and may connect it to an exhibit inside the center, which is planning several environmental topics. “I’m interested in imagery related to nets. It might be more conceptual over time as I learn what I can do in that context. We’ll see.”

* The images will not be shown the first Thursday of February and March due to scheduling commitments at the heritage center.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pup Gus.

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One Response

  1. Absolutely fantastic projection. I so enjoyed. Kudos to Ms Shenk
    Sally Stephenson, Dallas Tx

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