My first studio portrait ever taken was of a very special man, Charles Hilden Olin, my grandfather. Charles is a renaissance man, and a passionate naturalist. He is an art conservator, as well as both an artist and scientist, a connoisseur of the culinary arts, the founder of the Analemma Society in Great Falls VA, an enthusiastic bird watcher, and a sundial aficionado. He is a thinker and a doer.
At the age of 10, Charles’s interest in the arts was sparked after his grade school teacher expressed enthusiasm for one of his sketches and asked Charles to draw a panoramic sketch on the history of transportation. It was quite the sketch for a grade school student, but this divulges the kind of man Charles was his entire life. Spending time overseas Charles Hilden Olin was exposed to the visual arts of the Italian Peninsula and was inspired by the great masters such as Michelangelo, Buonarroti, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Fast forward to 1960, Charles at 27 and had earned a degree from Dickenson College, become a Marine Captain, married one of Harvard’s first female medical students, Jacqueline Smith, and had his first baby girl. He then went onto get a four-year fellowship at the New York University of Fine Arts, which he left after only two years, to establish the Conservation Research Lab at the Smithsonian at the age of 30. There he oversaw the environmental control of a new museum they were building, now known as the American History Museum. He was the head of the Smithsonian's Conservation Research Lab until 1971, after which he established his own practice, Olin Conservation. As the Nation's leading painting conservator, his practice included countless museums and private collections, and allowed him to treat paintings of the Masters, such as Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party", Monet, Gilbert Stuart, and many others.
This is the beginning of an ongoing untitled self project, to help me make sense of my family history as well as to help me create special memories and moments with my loved ones through the median of photography.
A rebel with a cause. This second studio portrait is of my Uncle, David Olin. David Olin, like his father, is the nation’s leading oil painting conservator. Unlike his father, David grew up with the rebellious youth of the 60s with the likes of Steve McQueen, Peter Fonda, and Willie Nelson. Inspired by the counterculture generation and figures like those named above who challenged the status quo, David Olin attributes his departure from the norm to his success. At the age of 30, David was given a lot of responsibility after his father, Charles Olin, suffered a stroke and turned Olin Conservations over to the able leadership of his son. Having spent his life around Monets, Renoirs, and the works of other masters, David acquired his father’s inspired dedication to the conservation of fine arts. Not only did he continue the affection and care that initially made Olin conservations the experts in the field that they were, he also expanded his fathers business model to include conservation of murals including the Gettysburg Cyclorama, the art work in the rotunda of the National Archives Charter of Freedom, and the art work of rotunda in the United States Capital.