Transformer Station Show Features Diverse Violin Images

Sat 1/22-Sun 4/3

Akron-born Evan Mirapaul came from a culture-loving but not personally artistic family; his father was a Cleveland Orchestra subscriber but his parents didn’t play music.

Still, he found his way into a Suzuki violin program in second grade, continued to play, briefly attended the Cleveland Institute of Music and southern Methodist University, then embarked on a career as a professional musician in orchestras in Phoenix, San Francisco, Montreal and Pittsburgh before ending up in a string quartet in New York. His music career ended in 2004 when he packed away his violin, but he’d already embarked on another: as a photography collector of images of a very specific subject: violins and violinists.

He now has more than 2,000 of them, from almost to the beginning of photography through today, both by anonymous “vernacular” photographers and legendary masters such as Weegee, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, Julia Margeret-Cameron, Irving Penn and Yousuf Karsh.

Dan Leers, Curator of Photography at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, worked with Mirapaul to create a show called In Concert: Photography and the Violin,  featuring 250 of his images, which cover a huge variety of styles, formats, sizes and photographic processes such as daguerrotypes, tintypes and cabinet cards. They range from personal snapshots, to promotional glossies to ads.

“What started to come to the fore was that the violin was an object that communicated a variety of meanings,” Mirapaul told Leers in an October 2021 interview for Pittsburgh Photo Fair. “It could be so fluid in what it communicated, depending on who was holding it and where it was being held. Other objects used as props in photographs are usually quite static in their meaning—somebody holding a flower doesn’t change anything about who they are. The violin was different. A Roma violinist presenting his instrument to denote his profession in a Josef Koudelka photograph is using it very differently than a wealthy girl trying to demonstrate her wealth and privilege in a casual portrait, yet it’s the very same object in their hands.”

The show opens at the Transformer Station Saturday January 22 and will be on view through Sunday April 3. There will be a public reception with refreshments and entertainment on Friday February 11 @ 6-8pm. The Transformer Station is open Wednesday through Sunday @ 11am-5pm.


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