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In its third year, PhotoJax aims to click with 
 two premier galleries at the beaches while challenging academics and amateurs to take a candid look at their own neighborhoods within the larger Jacksonville community.

PhotoJax 2014 kicks off with “The Camera’s Eye,” a benefit wine reception and exhibition of acclaimed vintage process photography spanning from the turn of the 20th century to contemporary prints, Jan. 24 at J. Johnson Gallery in Jacksonville Beach.

“The [J. Johnson] show is featuring works by prominent, famous historical photographers — [Edward] Steichen, Man Ray, Walker Evans, [Robert] Mapplethorpe,” says Jacksonville native Missy Hager who, with her husband, photographer Thomas Hager, created PhotoJax in 2011. “So it’s really exciting that we are going to bring this caliber of work to Jacksonville and our community is going to be able to see them outside of a museum setting.”

“Local Exposure,” a regionally juried photography exhibition at Atlantic Beach’s Gallery725, is the second component of this year’s somewhat scaled-back, two-day festival. The open competition is an opportunity for rising and established photographers to get their works seen.

This year’s community response project, #PhotoJaxHoods, invited residents to turn their lenses on their neighborhoods.

“We wanted to do a visual census of what people look at in their neighborhoods — what they love about their neighborhoods, maybe what they don’t like about their neighborhoods, that they want to get fixed,” says Jensen Hande, #PhotoJaxHoods project coordinator and a longtime Jacksonville-based commercial photographer. “You can really see citizens’ perspectives of their neighborhood and of their city.”

Like the “5×500” PhotoJax events in 2011 and 2013, the top entries for #PhotoJaxHoods will be displayed for all to enjoy, this time at Riverside’s CoRK Arts District.

“We’ve had amazing images, you know, very artful and tasteful, so that’s where the kind of blurred lines come in,” Hager says. “I think you can achieve, and people will see, some great images with camera phones. They’re not artists. They’re not photographers. They’re just like you and me, but we can capture those images.”

Hande says he would like to see continued local use of the Instagram hashtag (#PhotoJaxHoods) during and after PhotoJax 2014, with the idea that the contributed images could later make up a large visual map of Duval County neighborhoods.

Another focus of the 2014 festival is to highlight visionary regional curators. MOCA Jacksonville’s Ben Thompson, Savannah College of Art & Design’s Aaron Garvey, Draper Studio’s Staci Bu Shea and longtime Jacksonville art scene mainstay Carolyn Brass have each curated photography collections that will premiere Jan. 25 at CoRK, complete with a food-truck reception and live music.

“We definitely hope that as it grows, word will get out regionally and even nationally about this, because we really have a lot of things to offer, photography-wise, here in Jacksonville,” Hager says. o

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