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Alum Keith Kovach: book, institutional collaboration, project

US Scholar alum and photographer Keith Kovach (University of Central Florida) was the Fulbright-MQ/Q21 Artist-in-Residence in 2015 and published a book of photographs that resulted from his time in Austria entitled "Vienna in the Winter." His stay also resulted in a cooperation between his home institution and the Fachhochschule Salzburg which will lead to student exchanges between the institutions.

While on a follow-up visit to Vienna in summer 2016, Keith began visiting the Albertina Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum and Belvedere Museum and "found myself focusing on the paintings of cityscapes (urban Landscapes) of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The paintings take the viewer back in time and show the details of life during that time." He was especially interested in works from the 17th to 19th centuries executed by the Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, the Italian Bernardo Bellotto, and the Austrian artists Rudolf Ritter von Alt, Thomas Ender, Friedrich Loos, Carl Wenzel Zajicek, Gustave Caillebotte, and Franz Poledne.

Inspired by the historical cityscapes echoed in the city around him, he conceived of a new project, which he obligingly shared with us:

"While looking at these paintings of Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest, it occurred to me that it would be great to make current images of these paintings.

"After returning home, I did some research and found that these cityscapes are referred to as veduta (Italian for "view"; plural vedute). Veduta is a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting of a city or town that is lucid and faithful enough that the location is easily identified. The painters of vedute are referred to as vedutisti. Many of this type of painters were also interested in camera obscura. A camera obscura (Latin: "dark chamber") is an optical device that led to photography and the photographic camera."

"If the painters used an optical aid like a camera obscura then it is possible to calculate a GPS position by using optical tracking algorithms.

This past July I returned to Austria and made a series of photos using some of the painters from the above list. I tried to match the photos to the painter’s point of view. It was a fun hunt to find these locations. I have a portfolio of about 30 images. I look forward to return to Europe and continue the exploration."

We look forward to following Keith's progress with this project and getting a closer look at parallels between Austria in centuries past and today.  A book, a project, an exchange agreement: it's exciting to see the multifaceted, lasting institutional and artistic fruits of a single short Fulbright stay in Austria!