Something very cool is developing for photography lovers. The PhotoJax 2013 festival celebrates all things captured by the lens, and this year’s photo fete is held over the course of three days at three venues. Now in its second year, the event is the brainchild of organizer and director Missy Hager who, along with photographer-husband Thomas Hager, are longtime members of the Northeast Florida art scene.
“We like to call it a ‘celebration of photography,’ ” Hager said. “Thomas and I had been to other similar events in other cities and thought that we should try to start one here in Jacksonville.”
The inaugural festival in November 2012 coincided with the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville’s exhibit “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography,” which incorporated more than a half-dozen local venues featuring photo-themed exhibits as well as “5x500,” an open-call community arts project inviting any locals to submit an image captured on smart phones. True to its name, “5x500” culminated in 500 selected submissions being projected on the side of the MOCA building for five seconds each. “We had a great response,” Hager said, “with [more than] 500 people coming through MOCA during opening night alone.”
This time around, Hager hopes that PhotoJax attracts an even greater turnout by featuring similar offerings, including photo exhibits and a second inventive community-minded venture. “Our idea is that eventually photography will just saturate the city — museums, galleries, restaurants — everything,” said Hager, who hopes to continue this unique event which has inspired equal enthusiasm and cooperation from the arts community. “Last year, we started small and tried to put the focus on downtown, but each year we would like to highlight different areas of the city.”
The featured events of PhotoJax 2013 include a kickoff held on Jan. 24 as Florida Mining Gallery presents “Manifest: Select Photographs,” an exhibit of five internationally known photographers Bobby Davidson, Allen Frame, Chang Kyun Kim, Emma Wilcox and Jessica Yatrofsky. “It’s an opening, benefit-reception with a suggested donation at the door,” Hager said of the gathering that features festival schwag like T-shirts and totes. After 2012’s phenomenal success with the event’s centerpiece community arts project, Hager decided to issue another open call to local shutterbugs to send in Instagram-captured photos.
On Jan. 25, PhotoJax and MOCA are projecting 500 of the submitted Instagram images on a giant screen to be installed in Hemming Plaza. “We have some amazing images,” Hager said. At press time, they had already received more than 700 submissions.
On Jan. 26, CoRK hosts an exhibit featuring original images by Jensen Hande, Abra Anderson, Dennis Ho, Jen Morgan, Logan Zawacki, Kedgar Volta, Edison William, David Montgomery and The Territory of Light, a selection of works by UNF photography students, curated by Paul Karabinis. The opening reception includes a DJ, a food truck and refreshments. MOCA is also opening its latest film-themed exhibit, “SLOW: Marking Time in Photography and Film,” on Jan. 26.
Jensen Hande, who’s presenting an engaging series of portraits at PhotoJax devoted to the artists who have studios at CoRK, is creating a kind of “hard copy” of the projected images in the form of a grid composed of 500 Polaroid prints. “I thought that the projection of these is a cool idea, but not everyone is going to be able to see every one — so I offered to create an installation so everyone can experience these photos,” Hande said. The final piece will measure roughly 42 inches high and 21 feet wide. Hande, who has photographed everyone from J.J. Grey of Mofro to the players on the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the director of social media for this year’s event (facebook.com/photojax).
Hager is optimistic that folks in this area who like the idea of displaying hundreds of captured images in one place will be part of this year’s festival, whether contributing or attending. “We hope to engage the public while celebrating photography and making it fun, and the response has been great. People seem to have a good time during this,” Hager said. “And so do we!”