Book Review: House Music by Charles Rozier

© Charles Rozier

House Music by Charles Rozier is a collection of images spanning roughly thirty years of lovingly unpretentious moments focusing on the lives of his immediate and extended family. Flipping through House Music is like paging through someone’s family album, and all the images were taken by ‘Dad’, who we only see in one shadowy glimpse. The fact we don’t see the photographer in the book focusing on his own family makes me wonder if he doesn’t include himself because he feels uncomfortable about being photographed, or perhaps he feels like an outsider? But it is quickly apparent that Rozier has the visual storytelling skills to leave these questions unanswered and draw the viewer into universal themes and issues.

Rozier’s scenes depict a range of private spaces in lovely available light, fleeting moments of children acting like children (whether they are seven or seventeen), and photographs which carry far more narrative weight when viewed in this context.  Much like the project, Real Pictures: Tales of a Badass Grandma by Peggy Nolan, Charles Rozier has chosen to capture the honest, intimate scenes of his everyday. He shares views of his wife breastfeeding, children playing dress-up, reading a bedtime story complete with a Guinea Pig, or the vacant heartbreaking stare of his elderly father-in-law with a napkin tucked into his shirt collar.  In a specific image where Rozier’s daughters are waiting tentatively, palpably hesitant with their hands covering their mouths while staring at a birthday cake; the two are sitting at the dining room table in a darkened room, sparely lit by a single pendant lamp – which lends theatrical gravitas to the scene. (Do they dare cut the cake? Will waiting hold back time?)

It should all come as no surprise… we see his wife’s elderly parents grow old and eventually pass away less than decade apart. Children are born and age before our eyes, hairstyles change, youth gives way to tired parenthood, and gray hair slowly graces their temples. Yet the patterns of life that go unnoticed right in front of our eyes are revealed over time. Normally we just aren’t paying attention at the time, because we’re too busy with life. I’m thankful Rozier wasn’t too busy to capture and share these images.

In her essay, Alison Nordström mentions that the stream of continuity is a strength shared between the music genre of house music and this book. But the title/phrase House Music translates to me more literally as the sound of life. A coffee cup clinks into another one in the cupboard, floorboards creak and pop as someone shuffles down the hall, a voice somewhere in the house musically rises and falls while in conversation about Sunday dinner. Or even the distinct, repetitive tone heard when the dishwasher is running. A symphony for the commonplace.

Two different photographers recently spoke with me about the idea that a photo book should be made only when it feels right. Rozier drew from thirty years of work for House Music. The story and his narrative created speaks to this generational span of time. Everyday moments are made special and notable through his act of pressing the shutter. Rozier’s chronicle of the people he knows most initmately is touching and vulnerable. We know the cycle will repeat, we know how it all begins and ends and the musingly sad story will repeat and be told by a new generation.

© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


© Charles Rozier


House Music by Charles Rozier
Essay by Alison Nordström
Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing
124 pages, 28 duotone and 38 colour plates
ISBN: 9781911306559

Charles Rozier received an MFA in design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Over the next 40 years, in parallel with a design career, he remained committed to photography and in particular to his ongoing series of unposed portraits of the people around him. The images from this project were first exhibited in 2008, and have since been shown in over 25 exhibitions in the USA, China and Spain. Charles Rozier lives in Connecticut, USA. For more information, visit:

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Interior Life @ Filter Photo

© Dean Snodgrass

Interior Life
August 28 – October 3, 2020

reception on September 11th from 6 – 9 PM during the 2020 Filter Photo Festival

“The images we’ve selected speak to the theme of Interior Life in this current, complex moment. Long shadows on walls and light through windows hint at time’s passing. Time is central to the idea of presence; collectively, we have lost a sense of the days, weeks, and months. Collections of house plants and domestic animals draw our attention to the care given to people’s personal spaces. Whether they be green flowering life, or a beloved dog or cat, these companions remind us of the interconnectedness of life, and – most importantly – that we are not alone in this experience, no matter how isolated we may feel.” —Strange Fire Collective

Lois Bielefeld
Gary Blum
Tuan H. Bui
William Camargo
Jeanie Choi
Anastasia Davis
Annie Donovan
Jesse Egner
Arthur Fields
Nate Francis
Preston Gannaway
Brian Gee
Juan Giraldo
Conner Gordon
Olivia Alonso Gough
Mario El Khouri
Erica McKeehen
Darren Lee Miller
Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay
Jeremy Ng
Lingfei Ren
Rolls and Tubes Collective
Annick Sjobakken
Dean Snodgrass
Ursula Sokolowska
Liz Steketee
Wendy Stone
Sarah Sudhoff
Nicole White
Zoë Zimmerman

Filter Photo
1821 West Hubbard Street, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60622

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we like small things v.3 @ Filter Photo

© Atefeh Farajolahzadeh Irrigation Module 012

we like small things v.3
August 28 – October 3, 2020

reception on September 11th from 6 – 9 PM during the 2020 Filter Photo Festival

“As a whole, the images comprising we like small things v.3 craft a visual timeline of life as it was, and as it is amidst unrivaled socio-political upheaval. What remains to be seen is all that comes of this learning, and unlearning, and what registers in the collective photographic mind as life winds its way to a familiar rhythm.” —Roula Seikaly

Filter Photo
1821 West Hubbard Street, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60622

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Book Review: Phil Bergerson: A Retrospective

Untitled, Le Mars, IA, 2007

Canadian photographer and educator Phil Bergerson (b. 1947, Toronto) “found his calling as a photographer in the American social and cultural landscape” in the late 1980s while on a sabbatical from teaching at Ryerson University. “The focus of his work ever since has been the signs, display windows, hand-painted murals and graffiti found in cities and towns throughout the United States,” says the press release and the photographs in this beautifully done tome give testimony of a rich variety of cultural expressions. To my Swiss eyes the creativity displayed looks weird, funny, sad, pathetic, joyous, uplifting – touching expressions of the childlike human nature.

Needless to say, one has to have an especially good eye in order to see what Phil Bergerson saw and documented. Differently put: Not only his outsider view makes him see what many probably don’t, his attitude (“empathetic neighbour”) is equally important. Yet what, in my view, has to be applauded above all is the ingenuity of the folks who came up with all these fascinating and strange things that he photographed.

Untitled, Riviera, TX, 2006

“This book tells the story of Phil Bergerson’s many photographic journeys. Most were taken by car, some with the specific purpose of making photographs, others sparked by his complementary obsessions: an intense curiosity about the world and a penchant to ask questions that, to put it mildly, could not be easily answered,” writes Robert Burley in his foreword. Among these questions is also the fabulous “What On Earth Are You Doing?” which, in my case, leads to quite some other questions, and prominently among them: “Generally speaking or right now?”

The first part of the book features a very detailed illustrated essay by Peter Higdon that addresses Bergerson’s student days, early teaching and organising years at Ryerson University as well as his various photographic projects from 1967 to 1989. For somebody like me, who’s not exactly a believer in institutional learning (besides: I hardly recall anything from my school days), the importance the author attributes to academic learning and teaching I thought somewhat bewildering.

Untitled, San Marcos, TX, 2006

In the second part of the book, Don Snyder contributes an extensive analysis of Bergerson’s photographs of America. Going through an archive that spans nearly three decades it is almost inevitable to ask whether the photographs are somehow linked, whether patterns can be detected, “As he (Bergerson) reflected, he began to articulate how these images gradually became linked in his mind, and ultimately coalesced into what he came to realize was an entirely new style.”

Only in hindsight, it seems to me, are we really able to understand what we are doing. Yet there is a danger that our imagination sometimes may go overboard. I at least found it a bit far-fetched to compare Bergerson’s American journeys to de Tocqueville, Thoreau and Twain. “On all of his trips Bergerson brought with him the intriguing blend of de Tocqueville’s curiosity about American politics and culture, Thoreau’s search to understand the true motivation of his fellow beings, and Twain’s quick eye and deadpan wit.”

There’s lots to be discovered when spending time with this tome not least because looking at a photograph often conjures up many other images in our heads not necessarily related to the one before our eyes. Nevertheless, there are links, always – whether we are aware of them or not. In the afterword of this retrospective, Phil Bergerson, writes: “Nathan Lyons taught me that sequences were like living, breathing things with different elements whispering to each other back and forth about new connections as you move through them. Suddenly on the third or forth reading of the sequence, the fifth picture might give renewed insight into the meaning of an earlier or later image.” Very true yet we should not forget that nothing has meaning per se, to bestow meaning on something is a choice.

PS: The cover alone is worth this book!

Phil Bergerson: A Retrospective
Foreword by Robert Burley
Essays by Don Snyder and Peter Higdon
Daylight, May 2020

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Portraits without Faces @ PH21 Gallery (online)

Portraits without Faces
July 2 – 25, 2020


PH21 Gallery
55 Ráday St.

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Photography & _____ @ Catherine Edelman Gallery

© Sonja Thomsen / Thom Bridge

Photography & _____ Group Exhibition
July 10–September 4

Opening Reception: July 10 | 12 – 7 PM

“Photography & _____, the first artist collaborative exhibition in its 32+ history. Most art-making is a solitary process, void of outside voices, as a blank piece of paper or canvas is transformed into a work of art. But there has always been a rich history of art collectives: a group of artists who collaborate to create work. In the spirit of these collectives, Catherine Edelman Gallery presents Photography & _____, an exhibition that brings together photographers and other creatives to create one-of-a-kind pieces. CEG invited artists familiar to the gallery, including painters, writers, and photographers, and asked each participant to reach out to a fellow artist to create a collaborative piece. There were no limitations placed on the work, except that photography must be incorporated into each piece.”

Catherine Edelman Gallery
1637 W. Chicago Ave.

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Temporal: Puerto Rican Resistance @ Museum of Contemporary Photography

© Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo

Temporal: Puerto Rican Resistance Group Exhibition
July 7–August 30

“Temporal: Puerto Rican Resistance, an exhibition exploring Puerto Rico’s contemporary history as a United States territory. The exhibition traces the continued impact of three recent major events: the enactment of the US federal law titled the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016; the US response to Hurricane María’s landfall on the island in 2017; and the mass protests in July 2019 that forced the governor’s resignation.”

Featured artists include Christopher Gregory-Rivera, Natalia Lassalle-Morillo, Mari B. Robles López, Eduardo Martínez, Ojos Nebulosos, Adriana Parrilla, Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, Erika P. Rodríguez, Edra Soto, SUPAKID, and Rogelio Báez Vega.”\

Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 S. Michigan Ave.

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VICINITY 2020 @ Perspective Gallery

© Adam Frint

VICINITY 2020 Group Exhibition
July 3–26

Online Panel Discussion: July 16 | 7 PM CT

Juror Jennifer Murray selected the following artists for the exhibition: Pamela Macsai Baumgartner, Kambua Chema, Nick Cipra, Barbara Coleman, Atefeh Farajolahazadeh, Adam Frint, Ted Glasoe, Susan Isaacson, Michael F. Knapstein, Chris Law, Tanya Lunina, Kevin E Lyle, Mary C. McCloskey, David Obermeyer, Denise Orlin, Karen Osdieck, Brad Perkins, Delia Seeberg, Paula Shur, Noah Vaughn, and Andrea Wilmsen.

Perspective Gallery
1310-1/2B Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL

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Just Connect @ Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

© Sharon Lockhart

Just Connect Group Exhibition
July 1–November 8

“The global pandemic has forced us to put intense scrutiny on the things we touch, the spaces we inhabit, and the people we come into contact with. The connections that make up our daily lives have become less familiar. In response, MCA curators have selected artworks from the museum’s collection that explore how we connect. The resulting exhibition reflects on the connections we share with others and the world around us, as well as the bond we feel most acutely in solitude—with ourselves.

Just Connect brings together artworks from artists across generations, nationalities, and media that respond to the idea of connection. Just Connect reminds us of what we have in common now, all that we had in common when we were separated, and the humanity we will continue to share as we rebuild our lives after a global crisis.”

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave.

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Wig Heavier Than A Boot @ Filter Space

© David Johnson

David Johnson & Philip Matthews – Wig Heavier Than A Boot
June 26–August 15

Closing Reception: August 13 | 5 – 9 PM

“Revealing Petal—a drag persona as whom Philip manifests to write, and David photographs—the project crosses art-making rituals with isolated performances within domestic spaces and pastoral landscapes. Taken together, the resulting photographs and poems reveal dynamic relationships between author, character, and observer. By articulating a specific creative process in which one identity becomes two, the project, in turn, opens up a conversation about gender expression through an art-historical lens. A corresponding book is available via Kris Graves Projects.”

Filter Space
1821 W. Hubbard St.
Suite 207

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