Monday, July 28, 2003

Condon's work sold at auction

Photographer controversial for photos taken at morgue

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Thomas Condon photo of his nephew Zachary Jones, which is up for auction on Sunday afternoon in Monroe, Ohio.
(Leigh Patton photo)
| ZOOM |
MONROE - Nearly 100 photography buffs and curious onlookers came out Sunday to bid on work and equipment of Thomas Condon, the commercial photographer convicted of illegally taking pictures of posed bodies at the Hamilton County morgue.

But for the handful of family and friends who attended the auction, the event was more than just a chance to see and talk about the Cincinnati man's work. It was chance to try to buy back some of his controversial livelihood and their memories.

"This is who Thomas is," said his sister, Christina Jones of Eastgate, who had tears in her eyes as she looked at the display of Condon's art.

"They've taken absolutely everything,'' she said. "They've taken everything except his integrity and his dignity."

The photographs, paintings, sketches, darkroom and studio equipment were seized June 30 from Condon's Walnut Hills studio after he defaulted on a $70,000 business loan.

Sunday's auction brought in more than $5,000, mostly through the sale of Condon's equipment, said auctioneer Frank McCullough , of Frank McCullough and Associates.

Though no morgue photographs were up for sale, many came just to see what had been confiscated. They pored over the boxes of sketches - many drawn on the back of legal papers or medical records - stared at framed photographs of children, and talked about the sometimes explicit plaster pieces.

"It's garbage - pure unadulterated garbage," said Doug Bailey of Reading, who wound up purchasing a pot for $3. "You couldn't put this in the back of my truck if you paid me."

Condon did not attend the auction. He and his wife were moving into a new Cincinnati home Sunday afternoon, his sister said.

Condon was convicted in 2001 of gross abuse of a corpse for photographing at least nine bodies - posed with toys, seashells, fruit and other objects - in the morgue.

In May, his 30-month prison sentence was reduced to 18 months after appeals judges determined there was prosecutorial misconduct during his trial and that his punishment was too severe.

Last week, Condon was denied a new trial after a common pleas judge rejected a claim that new evidence was revealed during a federal civil case. His attorney plans to appeal.

Three pieces up for bid - mixed media works of plaster on wood panels - were supposed to displayed next month in a Northern Kentucky University exhibition, "OKI: New Art." One of the pieces is displayed on posters and invitations for the exhibition.

"We're trying to figure out a way to get those works back," said David Knight, a Condon friend and director of exhibitions and collections at NKU. "Sunday's auction drew a few art dealers, although Condon's attorney and friends purchased much of the work. Some art did not sell at all.

Going, gone

Sunday's auction raised more than $5,000. Among the items sold:

Box of camera lenses: $650

Pro lighting source: $600

Large canvas paintings: $50 to $150

Box of sketches: $50


Staff reporter Jeremy Steele contributed. E-mail

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