Ira Wagner: Twinhouses of The Great Northeast
When Ira Wagner shared his project Twinhouses of the Great Northest at the Photolucida Portfolio Reviews, I was fascinated by the almost surreal pairing of homes in Philadelphia that are connected but are not the same. Ira has a legacy of looking at architecture and the communities that surround the built environment. Twinhouses continues his exploration of how we live, with the small details of lawn moving and landscaping revealing the personalities of who lives inside. This typology of dual living is at once humorous and captivating. Twinhouses will be part of a group show in Philadelphia, Another Day in Paradise, curated by Gregory Eddi Jones, on view at Gravy Studio from July 13 to August 26th, 2019.
Ira Wagner began studying photography in 2008, after working on Wall Street for more than 25 years. With an interest in urban history, architecture and design, he has focused on photographing the urban landscape. He received his MFA from the Hartford Art School in 2013 and is currently teaching photography at Monmouth University in New Jersey. For his MFA project, he spent two years photographing the landscape of the Bronx. Since graduating, he has completed his project titled Houseraising, photographing houses being raised on the Jersey Shore following Hurricane Sandy. This project was featured in The New Republic, The National Geographic, and was released in a photobook by Daylight Books in 2018. In 2018, he received an artist grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. In photographing vernacular architecture, he considers what can be learned about residents of a neighborhood through how they shape their environment as well as what architects, developers, and urban planners created to meet the needs of the public. Underlying his subject matter is the universal desire to have a safe and comfortable place to live and raise a family.
Twinhouses of The Great Northeast
Twinhouses of The Great Northeast considers how people share a common border. Within this neighborhood of the city of Philadelphia, some families choose to mark their space with a fence or shrubbery. Others differentiate themselves with varying architectural elements and subtle changes to trim, windows and paint colors. One family chooses to hide completely behind a tall hedge; another lives in front of the house with common backyard elements – chairs, grills, patio tables, open for all to see. Common upkeep, such as mowing the lawn, ends at a rough approximation of the property line rather than being shared. One side of a structure shows pride of ownership, the other is missing a shutter on a window. When borders are such an important issue in the world, these images reflect a human inclination to mark and delineate one’s space rather than share it.
The Great Northeast section of Philadelphia shows what was built in response to the search for the American dream, even within the city limits. These modest homes are variations on a theme of two side-by-side houses that share a common wall. To create some variety, architectural elements appear pasted on the front of the box – various materials, gables, dormers, rooflines and trim. Because of the shared occupancy within a single structure, little has changed in these houses since they were built. As a result, this area of Philadelphia shows much of the original intent of the architects, developers and residents. Yet, over time, small differences have emerged that reflect how people live together as neighbors, differentiate their own property, customize their slice of suburban living and make their property their own.
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