Everything Is Regional
8.75” x 10.75” inches
Edition of 500
Published by Aint–Bad
From the artist:
The title, taken from a poem by former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky about the area of New Jersey where both he and Haughey grew up, speaks to the vernacular interest and deep connection to place that the subject matter holds. The son of a union sign painter, Haughey’s interest in roadside architecture and signage began at an early age, and as a native of the Jersey Shore, he is greatly influenced by the seasonal economy and off-season vacancy of a tourist destination.
Though many of the locales depicted were photographed during the unpopulated emptiness of the winter months and are devoid of people, the images exude a human presence from the not-so-distant past; people are present through their absence. Haughey draws inspiration from an array of artists that have used this landscape as the basis of some of their most important work, such as the writer John McPhee, architect Andrew Geller, and photographers Gregory Conniff and George Tice. His project Ebb Tide, which takes the midcentury modern motels of The Wildwoods as its subject, acts as a nucleus to Everything Is Regional, and is further discussed and contextualized by Adam Giles Ryan, Assistant Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in the introduction to the book.
Tyler Haughey (b. 1988, Ocean Township, NJ) received a Bachelor of Science in Photography and Art History from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. He was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 2015, was chosen as one of Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 in 2016, and was selected as a Flash Forward Emerging Photographer by The Magenta Foundation in 2017. His work has been featured in such publications as Slate, PDN, Lonely Planet, American Photo, Spiegel Online (Germany), and Wired Magazine (Japan), and is included in the Morgan Stanley Collection. He is represented by Sears-Peyton Gallery in New York and Los Angeles. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
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Book review by Marissa Iamartino |
Last time I was in New Jersey, I got in a fight with a guy in a white Pontiac at a gas station. I was with a couple friends on our way to hike (more like walk aimlessly and hitchhike) in the Poconos. Did you know New Jersey is the sole state where it is illegal to pump your own gas 24 hours a day? I promised myself I’d never stop there again.
My great-grandfather immigrated to the U.S. - specifically, to New Jersey - from Italy in 1919. He worked as a hat-maker there until he moved to Danbury, Connecticut, which was at the time, the hat-making capital of the world. According to the National Italian American Foundation’s analysis of the 2000 U.S. Census, the states with the highest Italian-American populations are Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Since coming here, my family has lived in all three.
In “Everything is Regional”, Tyler Haughey, a native of the Jersey Shore, examines remnants of a bygone era in the Wildwoods and beyond. Looking through the pictures, I feel the fuzzy tarantula of nostalgia creep into my chest cavity. The kitschy motels with pastel facades and tri-color half tone post card reproductions bring me back to a time before I existed, yet I still feel a longing for the simplicity and bravado of the mid-twentieth century. That’s the interesting thing about this work, for me. It feels intensely wistful and evocative of a particular era, yet conceptually, the idea of humans congregating beside the sea is timeless. Is Everything Regional? Honestly, I’m not so sure.
Haughey’s pictures of motels pull me through this book. These images in particular have a Steven Shore-esque quality, not only with their precise framing of empty streets, pools, and balconies, but also through their haunting simplicity and building-specific palettes. Geometrically, my eyes search for the tiled squares, cracks of stucco, painted parking spots, and hatching railings like a Christian searches for meaning in the Bible. Contrasting these images with the circular dots of the half tone postcards brings me to consider the intense cultural shift that happened in America between the rigidity of the 1950’s, and the anarchic fluidity of the 1960’s and 70’s. I am especially drawn to the image of the ‘Singapore Motel’ - with it’s intense white lines, flurries of falling snow, gleaming white elephant at the edge of a dirty pool, and the sublime fury of waves crashing in the background; I just can’t look away. It’s eeriness, preciousness, and peculiarities refuse to let my eyes escape the borders of the frame. I would hang that picture in my home, just so I could look at it every day.
In ruminating on coastal areas, Tyler Haughey’s work forces me to think about how, regardless of time and space, seaside communities across the globe happen to have similar architectural characteristics. While visiting my grandfather on the Adriatic coasts of Mezzogiorno as a child, I specifically recall the pastel-colored shacks (we refer to them as ‘lidos’) and rows of colorful umbrellas that embellish every spiaggia. My parents used to drive my brothers and me down to Ocean City, Maryland in the 90’s, where the east coast motels with post-war architecture beaconed their neon signs outwards towards the Atlantic. Ocean City is likely a mirror community to Wildwood; a space past it’s prime, desperately clinging to the tethers of it’s former title as a Vacation Destination. In Cape Cod, Miami, San Diego, Ibiza, Havana, Rabat, Cancun, Naples, Bali – the beach-side architecture uses white, yellow, pink, and teal as color signifiers for fun, sun, and care-free living. I am no anthropologist, but is this some sort of human construct that we have created, to warn others of our “vacation mode”? Are we like poisonous red berries or deadly tree frogs, screaming our intentions out into the universe?
“Everything is Regional”, despite its nod to global human tendencies, is undoubtedly, distinctly American. I went to Las Vegas last May, with my dad, actually – not the typical ‘bachelorette party’ experience – and his direct quote, giggling as we walked into The Venetian was, “Well Missy, we have now upgraded from stingy to seedy.” What other nation in the world would unearth a sense of pride in directly, cheaply reconstructing the classical architecture of other countries? Someone was clearly thinking: “We have it too good here to ever leave, right – so why not build the stuff on our own sacred land?” Even back in their heyday, I wonder if the glaring neon of “the Caribbean” and the “Isle of Capri Motel” injected wonder into the hearts of American tourists. As I look at the post-cards Tyler Haughey chose to reproduce, I see a direct critique of historical, white America: an unknowingly exploitative community that thrived on constructing falsified, idyllic realities, and in this mode, these postcards function as a critique of capitalism and the machismo. It is only now, decades later and in the internet age, that young people are dissecting the gross injustices that the United States of America has inflicted on its own people. I am a young woman, twenty-five years old, in thousands of dollars of debt for wanting to get an education, and the promises of “equal pay” and “retirement” are nowhere in sight for my future. No wonder home-run businesses like HipCamp and AirBnB are destroying these seaside motels. People my age can’t afford anything else.
In the words of Adam Giles Ryan, who wrote the introduction to this work: “In the broadest sense, these pictures are about the lengths to which Americans will go to assure themselves that they are indeed having a good time.” If you plan to look at “Everything is Regional”, I highly suggest that you take the time to read this introduction. It is so well done and fully thought out, that it made writing this review a daunting task. Through portraiture, still lives, architectural images, and the postcard reproductions, Tyler Haughey’s photographs manage to acknowledge our country’s disturbing, historical obsession with exoticism, but also, point a finger at the United States’ peculiar need to separate life from leisure.
In the wake of our current political climate, as I watch immigrant families be grossly mistreated, I cant help but think about my own great-grandfather’s journey here. He slipped into the U.S. just before the 1924 Immigration Act, a federal law that severely restricted immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, and completely denied Asian immigrants from entering the country. He came here one year before Sacco & Vanzetti supposedly committed that infamous robbery in Braintree, Massachusetts. After Sacco’s wrongful conviction and execution, his ashes were eventually returned to his birthplace in Torremaggiore, Apulia - just an hour by car from the town in Molise where my great-grandfather was born. And lastly, like so many people, my great-grandfather’s name was butchered on Ellis Island. I now proudly carry that butchered name with me.
Because of Tyler Haughey (and my friend Caiti Borruso) I think I will stop in New Jersey again. Perhaps those neon signs boasting the names of far-away places have sometime, somewhere, brought someone a tiny sense of comfort. Maybe a stranger in a strange land saw the words “Isle of Capri Motel” glowing in atomic number 10, and it brought them home, just for a second. After all, I am realizing that most of us are probably here, because someone sharing our own DNA was lured by the idea of the American Dream. Maybe that phrase is on a neon sign somewhere – a beachside, collapsible façade in white, yellow, pink, and teal. Who needs red, white, and blue when you’re looking at the ocean, anyways?
Grab a copy of the book here