CLEVELAND -- A Cleveland's photographer's well-known images of the city are now Christmas ornaments.
While Clevelanders might not recognize Jim Ptacek if they ran into him, they certainly have seen his photos, which for more than 30 years have been displayed in homes, offices, and businesses across the area and beyond.
"I wanted to be different. I didn't want to be strictly black and white so I went with the sepia and it seems to have worked," explained Ptacek, from his studio in the basement of his west side home, about his decision decades ago to give his photos of Cleveland landmarks a different look.
Now Ptacek's sepia-tone images of well-known local scenes, which have been made into everything from lampshades to neckties, are part of a Christmas ornament collection, produced by the Wendell August Forge company.
"We can't keep up with the orders. We're on another back order. We keep reordering them," says Barb Keglovich, of the Frame Center Gallery in Cleveland's downtown Galleria. She has been displaying and offering Ptacek's work since 1980.
"He is one of the sustaining artists that really profiles Cleveland and keeps it up to date," Keglovich told WKYC. "And he's so proud of his community and wants to share that through his work."
This year, Wendell August has forged three new images to join the first three of Ptacek's photographs which were made into ornaments during Christmas 2011.
"This year, it's the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, the old Muni Stadium with Chief Wahoo, and the West Side Market," the friendly photographer said, adding that the West Side Market ornament is especially popular because it's the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland landmark.
Vicky Poole stopped by a display Ptacek recently mounted at the Galleria. She had the ornament she purchased personalized by the artist who was glad to chat with his customers.
"I have last year's three so this will add nicely to our tree," Poole said, while admiring Ptacek's distinctive signature. "He does such a good job depicting what our Cleveland past and future is all about."
That's the kind of comment the quiet and humble photographer appreciates. His hometown has always meant much to him, and capturing its past and progress has been in important part of his vision.
"I grew up in Cleveland here on the west side, and I've always liked Cleveland. Years ago there were a lot of people making fun of it, mistake on the lake, and I didn't want to be a part of that," Ptacek said.
"So I just kept plugging away and making scenes of what people relate to, things you have experienced."
Ptacek realizes his photos have not only captured images of Northeast Ohio over the years, but the imaginations and even the hearts of those who view them.
"If you spent time with your father at the Stadium and he's passed, every time you look at that picture you think of your father," he reflected, "or Euclid Beach, the good times you had there. So I'm kind of marketing memories, and memories seem to sell."
Especially at the time of the year when new memories are being made.