Marjorie P. Lee retirement community resident Dan Wheeler knows that no one can see everything in the course of one lifetime. But that doesn’t stop him from turning his camera lens on the life around him and capturing every moment he can.
Wheeler is now retired from a long career as a University of Cincinnati cognitive psychologist. And it was a distinguished career, too.
"Dan inherited his mother’s keenly observant eye."
He was a significant contributor to research on the Word Superiority Effect, having co-developed the basic experimental framework, known as the “Reicher-Wheeler Paradigm” used to investigate it. He also researched chaos theory and postulated on its applications to cryptography.
But Wheeler wasn’t born a research psychologist. He was born an artist.
A family living behind the lens
In the early 1950s, while the family was living in Heidelberg, Germany, Wheeler’s mother Grayce bought a medium-format Rolleiflex camera. She dove into a serious study of photography (here, in this early portrait, are Dan and his father, Stanley).
Grace’s photographic studies continued after the family moved back to the United States in 1955. She had her own darkroom in their Fairfax, Virginia home and belonged to several camera clubs. Her favorite subjects included her children and her aging mother. She remained an active photographer well into her senior years.
Dan inherited his mother’s keenly observant eye. And, somewhere along the line, her love of artistry manifested in him, too. In high school, he exhibited at Washington, D.C.’s Department of Recreation Photographic Salons. His photos won several prizes in contests organized by area newspapers.
During his undergraduate years at Yale, Wheeler took courses in graphic design and photography and served as the Chief Photographer for the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News.
Although graduate work and his subsequent career in psychology suppressed his creative impulses for many years, now, in retirement, he has rediscovered life behind the lens.
"I became very serious about it," he told the University of Cincinnati’s PR team, "and started doing photography as an art, the kind of images that would hang on gallery walls."
Recognition continued to mount. In 2010, his photograph "Aging" won first place in the juried Digital Photography Challenge.
Living well through art
Wheeler won several awards at this year’s LeadingAge Art and Writing Show. In the regional competition for Southwest Ohio, he earned accolades in three categories.
In the Computer Art category, he took home second place for this digitally-manipulated photo. Another of his photos won third place in photography (the regional first prize went to his longtime friend, Linda Fowler, who lives in a retirement community in Lebanon).
Wheeler is a creative writer, too. His short memoir piece, “Valentine’s Day Plus Fifty,” won second place in non-fiction.
All three of his entries were subsequently entered in LeadingAge’s statewide arts competition, which was held in early September in Columbus. In the state contest, his Photography entry took home second place — even better than it had fared at regionals — while his friend Fowler’s photograph again took home the top prize.
And that’s perfectly fine by him. A top honor is never missed when it goes to a close comrade. Moreover, Wheeler’s been atop the LeadingAge heap before. He took home first prizes in photography at the 2014 contest and in the 2015 competition.
Wheeler’s current projects are Measurements: Mismeasure of Woman and candid portraits of fellow Marjorie P. Lee residents. A show of 20 of these portraits was on display at Marjorie P. Lee in July of 2014.
Dan Wheeler’s creative life is rich. And he’s an inspiration not only to fellow residents at Marjorie P. Lee, but to other seniors whose own artistic fires burn bright. We at Episcopal Retirement Services are delighted to know and serve him.