When Wyoming resident Matthew Zory, a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musician and an award-winning photographer, asked permission to take a few pictures of the historic renovation of Cincinnati Music Hall, he had no idea he would be embarking on a two year journey.
“I thought I’d visit the hall a few times while it was under renovation, snap a few personal pictures and that would be it,” recalls Zory, whose book Through the Lens: The Remaking of Cincinnati’s Music Hall is now available online at www.matthewzory.com, in the Music Hall Bravo Shop and through Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
But Zory, whose work has appeared in numerous local galleries, including the Taft Museum, Carnegie Center for the Arts and Wash Park Art, was quickly sucked into the project. As a photographer he was captivated by the ever-changing light cast by the work lights and blow torches. As a musician he was amazed to discover new rooms and hidden corners throughout the hall, where he has played for 25 years.
“I was fascinated by it all and put a lot of pictures on Facebook. People kept posting, ‘This is so cool. Where can I get the book?’ It made me realize how passionate people are about Music Hall and how invested they were in the renovation. I felt a sense of duty to share what I was seeing, but the prospect of putting together a book was really overwhelming.”
Zory began collaborating with his wife, Shelly Reese, a veteran journalist, writer and independent project manager.
“We’ve been married for almost 17 years, and I never really understood what she did for a living until we started working together on this project,” he says. “She had me print out a stack of my favorite pictures and then asked me about why I’d taken each one of them. Sometimes the answer had to do with the light and the feeling it evoked in me. Sometimes it was about the action that was taking place or the personality of the person in the photograph.”
Reese used Zory’s answers to develop the structure, text and title for the book and forced him to make photo selections based on his answers.
“The book is really about Matt’s journey through the hall as it was transformed. It’s about what he saw and the people he encountered along the way,” she explains. “It was a very personal journey, and the text and organization of the book had to reflect that.”
The journey to publication was equally personal. Zory had to cull through a portfolio of 17,000 photos and make some difficult choices about what to publish. It was also marked by some fairly major hiccups. “The book was supposed to be released on December 1, but because of a trucking snafu, it had to be reprinted.”
Fortunately the couple, who moved to Wyoming in 2005 with their two daughters, had ample support. “There are so many smart and creative people in this community, and they really wanted to help,” Reese says.
Amy Hunter, marketing manager at the Mercantile Library and another Wyoming resident, helped connect the couple with local book sellers and invited them to give a presentation at the Merc. The Wyoming Women’s Club invited Zory to speak at its November luncheon and Wyoming Living ran an article on the project.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Zory agrees, “and we received a lot of help and advice from some pretty phenomenal people along the way.”
If you’d like to hear more about Zory’s journey through Music Hall, he’ll be discussing the project at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Wednesday, February 21 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.