James Douglas Shields' 'Dark Portrait' Series Captures Champions of Cleveland

After growing up in Maryland and living and working in downtown Manhattan, James Douglas Shields moved to his wife’s hometown of Cleveland. Immediately fascinated and immersed into his new environment, Shields focused his attention on the people shaping the city’s revitalization. Soon, he began his Dark Portrait series, a collection that has grown to more than 120 photographs of locals taken in Shields’ studio. 

At the beginning of the project, James Douglas Shields intended to exhibit his Dark Portraits, but as the project continued to grow he knew the right venue was critical. He found a welcome home for his work at Red Space at Hotcards’ World Headquarters. For this special exhibition, the portraits are enlarged to 3 ft. by 5 ft., presenting them at a scale larger than life. The Dark Show opens with a reception at Red Space from 6 to 11:30 p.m. this Friday, July 8.

“The Dark Portrait Series celebrates those from all walks of life who champion Cleveland in their own right every single day,” explains Shields. “From the outside, Cleveland can appear gritty and unremarkable. But under the surface, Cleveland has always been a serious town with serious aspirations. We are loyal, but we do not forget. We earn our way, taking nothing for granted. We have lost, but we are resilient. We are not weak as together we are a force to be reckoned with.

“Cleveland has many reasons to hold its head high and be proud of what we've accomplished. We are NBA Champions! We are a UFC champion. We are world famous chefs. We are world renowned art museums and theatre productions. We are award winning broadcasters. We are one of the greatest orchestras in the country. And we are one of the most unparalleled healthcare systems in America. These are the folks who make Cleveland 'The Land.' So it only seemed fitting to show these passionate, talented, and often underestimated individuals in a light as unique as each of them.”

The Dark Show at Red Space showcases roughly half of the more than 120 portraits currently within the Dark Portrait series. As Shields alluded to, the series includes NFL and NBA players, an MMA champion, internationally acclaimed hip hop stars, celebrity chefs/restauranteurs, artists, designers and much more.

Among others, the project includes: Aaron Sechrist, Akram Boutros, Alan Cox, Alex Angelo, Alex Kay, Alex Loos, Alexander Hitchens, Allan Fee, Alonzo Mitchell, Amelia Sawyer, Anderson Varejao, Andrea Vecchio, Anna Harouvis, Anthony Russo, Armonty Bryant, Bailee Openshaw, Barkevious Mingo, Bernie Moreno, Bill Squire, Brian Verne, Charlie Eisenstat, Chip the Ripper, Chris Connor, Chris Tyler, Chris VanViliet, Colson Baker (MGK), Craig Robertson, Dan Moulthrop, Dan Toffolo, Dan Whalen, Dani Pajak, David Frame, David Gilbert, Derryl Strong, Devin Harris, Doug Katz, Edward Tomba, Eric Gordon, Eric Williams, Erika Lauren, Fabio Salerno, Glen Infante, Grafton Nunes, Greg McBride, Gwen Cox, Ivan Schwarz, Jamie Sullivan, Jason Crocker, Jason Feiler, Jeff Charney, Jesse Grant, Jessica Eye, Jim Metrisin (Santa), Joe Haden, Joe Kastelic, Joe Russo, John Paul Costello, John Gadd, Jonathon Sawyer, Josh Cribbs, Juan Vergara, Julia Toke, Karen Small, Ken Stefanov, Kristin Warzocha, Kumar Arora, Lauren Herzak-Bauman, Lee Jones, Lindsay Davis, Lydia Troy, Malcom White, Marty Geramita, Matt Radicelli, Matthew Fehrmann, Melissa Reid, Michael Eppich, Mitzie Verne, Natalie Herbick, Neil Mohney, Nina Turner, Paul M. Voinovich, Phil Taylor, Ramon A Claudio, Ramon Rivas II, Robert Rutter, Rocco Whalen, Ronn Richard, Ryan Martin, Sam McNulty, Scott Seargent, Scott Wolstein, Stephen Mcfarlane, Steve Tanruther, Stipe Miocic, Susie Frazier, Tammy Lyons, Thomas Wasinski, Tim VanNewHouse and mascots CC, Slider and Chomps.

"Working with James was very laid back, yet professional, unique and refreshing from the norm of the average photographer," Josh Cribbs tells Scene.

"It sheds a new light on a city that’s deservedly in the spotlight right now," says Jeff Charney, CMO of Progressive Insurance. "There was no makeup, no over-the-top production or lighting, in fact, my sitting only took five minutes. I was drawn to James’ project because it’s really in-line with Progressive’s ‘outcreate vs. outspend' mentality."

A portion of the exhibition’s admission will be donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Tickets range from $35 to $100, and include $25 admission and $10 to $75 donation to the Food Bank.

Shields plans to continue his Dark Portrait series as he continues to explore the unique people and places within his adopted hometown. 

(Red Space at Hotcards) 2400 Superior Ave., 216-241-4040, hotcards.com

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