Book Review: Houseraising by Ira Wagner

Seaside Park

In 2012, the Jersey Shore was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In the summer of 2013, Ira Wagner, an adjunct professor of photography at Monmouth University, who is based in New Jersey and owns a home on the Jersey Shore, “noticed some of the houses along the NJ shoreline were being lifted through a rudimentary elevation system referencing the age-old communal activity of barn raising. Ranging from modest bungalows to mansions, they appeared to Wagner to be sitting up in the air on wooden supports that looked so wobbly you could push them over,” I read in the press release. And, that describes precisely my own impressions when looking at the photographs in “Houseraising”.

Why would someone decide to stay on a shore that was not only devastated by a hurricane but remains under threat from storms, erosion, and rising sea levels? I wondered. Needless to say, I can only guess. To me, this once again shows the stubborness of human beings, our inability to adapt, our refusal to change. As always, one can also see things differently and argue that the people who are determined to stay on such a shore are extremely capable to adapt – they decided to elevate their houses!

Ocean Beach

In the book’s foreword, Rachael Shwom, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology and associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute, gives her personal account of how she survived Hurricane Sandy on the top two floors of a rental house. She today still lives on the Jersey Shore in a raised house that she purchased in 2017. So why does she, who is well aware of the dangers of climate change, continue to live there? Well, to start with, she has no illusions in regards to the scientific findings. “From an economic and climate change perspective, I may not be on the winning side.” More bluntly put: Given what scientists tell us, this is a stupid decision.

However, she knows from personal experience how it feels to survive a hurricane. “But I have never run my life like a business where I maximize profit (if I did, I would be a banker instead of an academic) – and few people do. Because for many, life is rarely about maximizing wealth and rather about finding a way to pay the bills while taking joy in what you can.” Moreover, she simply loves to live there.

Brick Township

“Building on the Silence: How the New Jersey Shore Responds to Climate Change without Talking about Climate Change” is another text in this book. It is by George Marshall, who “advises scientists, governments, and campaign organizations about effective ways to engage the public around climate change.” The title says it all: Even people affected by climate change do not talk about it. It is not that they doubt it, it is that they focus on things that to them feel less abstract. So they come together and support each other. Communities grow stronger. And, they elevate their houses.

George Marshall also points out aspects of Ira Wagner’s (to me somewhat surreal) photographs that many (including me) probably would overlook without being made aware of. For they also reflect “the dominance of individual property ownership over all other values.” Moreover, to a cultural outsider (Marshall is English), the “very lightness of American timber building reflects a native culture of high mobility and flexibility that creates buildings that can be rapidly and cheaply assembled, dismantled, or shifted in any direction.” In my view, this is a pretty reasonable aproach to an unpredictable life.


by Ira Wagner

Daylight Books, July 1, 2018
Available here:

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Grayscale: A Picture Show @ Black Box Gallery

image: Carl Shubs

Grayscale: A Picture Show
August 1-20, 2018

Black Box Gallery
811 East Burnside St., #212
Portland, Oregon 97214

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Andrew Moore @ Kopeikin Gallery

September 8th – November 3rd, 2018

Reception for the Artist & Book Signing Saturday, September 8th from 6 – 8 pm.

“Shown in the main gallery are many of the low-altitude landscapes Moore made in collaboration with South Dakota crop duster who flew a specially modified plane with a camera attached its strut. The large-format photographs of the front gallery are more intimate in subject, depicting details, interiors and portraits from the High Plains. In a time when the impact of climate change is at the forefront of global concern, Moore’s work speaks of a land subject to extreme weather conditions, and where a few less inches of rain and a few degrees’ higher temperatures is all that lies between lush grassland and blowing sand. ”

Kopeikin Gallery
2766 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

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Jeff Whetstone @ Julie Saul Gallery

Jeff Whetstone: Batture Ritual
September 6 – October 27, 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6, 6-8 pm

“Jeff Whetstone’s photographs and videos explore the micro- and macro-economies and ecologies along the Mississippi River’s batture near New Orleans, Louisiana. “Batture” is the French-creole term for the thin strip of weeds, trees, and mud between the water’s edge of the Mississippi River and the tall, hardened levees that contain its floods. The batture is ephemeral. It disappears when the river is high and re-emerges when the tide falls; it is swept and transformed. It is a cyclical land, untied to human time, unclaimed, and unowned, a temporary alluvial wilderness. Families fishing for food come within feet of international oil tankers and container ships that facilitate global trade. Whetstone does not depict the batture as a dividing line, but rather a magnet that draws all manner of life into contact.”

Julie Saul Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10011

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Re/member/construct and we like small things v.2. @ Filter Space

© Meg Griffiths

Re/member/construct and we like small things v.2.
September 21 – October 27, 2018

reception September 28 | 6 – 9 PM

“Re/member/construct, juried by Lisa Volpe, features the work of 30 artists that explore the quality of a photograph to simultaneously stop time and infuse form, construct memory, and fuel nostalgia. ”

“we like small things v.2 is our second exhibition of small works. Artists were asked to submit works 10 x 10 inches or less for this call for work. Juror, Aimée Beaubien, chose a compelling assortment of small works by over 40 artists.”

Filter Space
1821 W. Hubbard St., Ste. 207
Chicago, IL

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4×5 Photo Fest 2018

4×5 Photo Fest 2018
Saturday, September 15, 2018 | 11am – 8pm

4×5 Photo Fest consists of a full day of inspiring photography keynotes & workshops geared towards professional photographers, enthusiasts, and the creative class. Whether you’re a freelancer, seasoned professional, intern, emerging photographer or business owner looking to connect with photographers – 4×5 Photo Fest is an experience you don’t wanna miss out on. This year’s Keynote Speaker is Magnum Photographer, Eli Reed. Reed will speak at the Fest on Saturday, September 15 at 6:00pm. Join us for the film Screening of Tía Chuck: A Portrait of Chuck Ramirez on Saturday, September 15 at 3:00pm with a Q&A to follow with Directors Angela and Mark Walley. Our Women in Photography Panel will include Isabel Castro, Ilana Panich-Linsman, Julia Robinson, and will be moderated by Lisa Krantz. The panel will explore how women are working to change the conversation of how stories are told. Stick around for an artist talk with Mark Sobhani, NBA team photographer for the San Antonio Spurs, and workshops with media law attorney Alicia Wagner Calzada and paper demo with Amanda Dominguez of Digital Pro Lab.

Admission to 4×5 Photo Fest is free and open to the public. Doors open at 11am on Saturday, September 15. East Crossing is located at 125 Lamar, San Antonio, TX 78202. Full speaker lineup is available at:

East Crossing, 125 Lamar St, San Antonio, TX 78202

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2018 Members Show @ Florida Museum of Photographic Arts

Christa Moody, Plaza De Mayor, First Place, Travel, Members Show 2017.

2018 Members Show
until August 31

Opening Reception: Friday, July 27, 2018

“Works shown are member-submitted photographs in six categories. Winners in each category are selected by a panel of judges and announced at the reception. Reception attendees who make a donation to the museum will be able to vote on an overall “best-in-show” winner.”

Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
400 N. Ashley Drive, Cube 200
Tampa, FL 33602

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Book Review: Venice Beach by Dotan Saguy

Peeking from Behind the Graffiti Wall.
A little boy who came with his family to paint on the Venice Art Walls mischievously peeks at two teenage girls on roller skates posing for pictures. The walls were originally part of the Venice Pavillion – a recreation facility built in 1961 – and were often covered with illegal graffiti. In 2000, when the pavillion was torn down, a portion of the walls was preserved as a memorial to the beloved graffiti, and it became legal to paint the walls. This activity has become popular with locals and tourists alike, who flock to the Arts Walls armed with spray cans and turn the Venice Art Walls into a delightful and continously renewed art exhibition.

Dotan Saguy has lived in Los Angeles since 2003. In 2015, he decided to focus on his lifelong passion for photography. He attended the Eddie Adams Workshop, the Missouri Photo Workshop and studied photojournalism at Santa Monica College. His book Venice Beach. The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise was edited by Gail Fisher, Sr. Editor at National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times.

I’ve been to Venice Beach, “a residential, commercial, and recreational beachfront neighborhood within Los Angeles, California” according to Wikipedia, but that was almost forty years ago. I do remember similar scenes but not as spectacular as the photographs in this tome and that, I guess, has something to do with the fact that with a camera in hand one tends to look at the world differently, and especially more focused.

Handball Courts.
The Venice Beach handball courts are mainly used by working-class people who typically can’t afford to live near the boardwalk anymore. Many of them still strongly identify with the neighborhood, returning on weekends to enjoy the handball courts and other community amenities. This provides hope that gentrification has not yet completely ruined the vibrant culture of the Venice Boardwalk.

Venice Beach, I’m quoting Wikipedia again, “is located within the urban region of western Los Angeles County known as the Westside. Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Today, Venice is known for its canals, beaches, and the circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile (4.0 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, mystics, artists and vendors.” It is the performers, photographer Dotan Saguy has decided to focus on – and the result is often stunning. I’m however not always sure whether it is because of the subject matter or the photographs. I would think it is because of both because of how a subject matter in a photo is perceived depends to a large extent on how it is framed.

From the press release I learn that the future of Venice Beach is on razor’s edge for luxury restorations and profit maximization threaten the lifestyle wich has been the hallmark of Venice for decades. So maybe Dotan Saguy has documented a community that is bound to soon disappear.

Venice Gladiator.
An oiled-up bodybuilder wearing nothing but a speedo enters the stage of the Mr. Muscle Beach contest. His silhouette resembles that of an ancient Roman gladiator entering an arena full of anticipating spectators

The captions are found at the end of the book and are, thankfully, rather elaborate. They help us understand what our eyes are looking at for we need such information because otherwise we only see what is already on our minds. Also, with the captions, the photographer lets us know that he did his homework, that he’s not just a casual observer, that he knows what he’s photographing and in doing that invites us to make our own discoveries.

Jamie Rose writes in his foreword, entitled “In Praise of Wonder,” that the photos in this book evoke the celebration of life – and I clearly sympathise with his view – and he gives some useful advice: “I encourage you to pause before you turn the page. Take a moment to let go of any modern cynicism and judgement threatening to cloud your vision. Be open to exploring the strange and magical without prejudice. Allow yourself to be mesmerized – by this way of life, before it fades away.”


Venice Beach: The Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise
by Dotan Saguy

Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg

You can also see Saguy’s work in the exihibition US BLUES July 14 — September 8, 2018 at Kehrer Galerie, Germany

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Metamorphosis @ Darkroom Gallery

image: Deb Ehrens

July 25th, 2018 – September 2, 2018

Artists’ Reception scheduled for August 11th, 2018

“For Metamorphosis we invited submission of photographs that address the transient, the ephemeral, and the transition from one stage of being to another. Sometimes it’s possible to illustrate two states of existence in the same image,. In most cases, however, change or transition can be represented by a single image: think of photos of a Bar Mitzvah, the birth of a child, the demolition of an iconic building, the erosion of a hillside and its converse, the volcanic eruption. or the poignant little life and death dramas that take place in our yards and gardens every day. It’s also quite possible to suggest change and transition less literally, through the abstract or surreal image, and we encouraged entrants to explore those possibilities as well.”

Darkroom Gallery
12 Main St.
Essex Jct., VT 05452-3132

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JULY 21 – AUGUST 19, 2018

Opening Sat July 21,2-4pm

FotoFilmic PULP Gallery

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