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Pop-up photography exhibit displays photos from around the world

Curt Wagner displayed 40 of his photos in a pop-up photography exhibit at BreakAway Cafe on Jan. 21. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)1 / 7
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These are just a few of the photos in Wagner's pop-up photography exhibit. (Submitted photos by Curt Wagner)7 / 7

In true pop-up fashion, Hastings native Curt Wagner put together a pop-up photography exhibit in less than a week's time. He sized the photos, sent them to the printer, had them returned and matted them all in just a few days.

Wagner, who is currently living in Rome, Italy, was home for the holidays when he decided to extend his stay in order to put together the Jan. 21 exhibit at BreakAway Café.

"Did I Shutter?" was the theme of the pop-up, with 40 photos on display narrowed down from more than 21,000 images taken from around the world. Images were taken in places like Iceland and Italy to closer destinations like Duluth and even Hastings itself.

Wagner has had an interest in photography for more than a decade, but "Did I Shutter?" was his first photography exhibit. He remembers first getting interested in photography around the time he moved to Italy about 15 years ago.

Wagner was in Naples, Italy, and he took out his camera to take a picture of a neon sign. He had set up the perfect shot and snapped the picture. But just as the photo was being taken, two people walked through the frame, creating a less-than-perfect image. Wagner said he remembers being so upset that his picture was ruined, but then he viewed the photo.

"When I saw the picture, it stopped me; how beautiful this moment was when I saw this one bald guy with his head down thinking about something and another guy was blurry in the back, and I just remember accidentally creating this photo and that's when I thought, look what you can do with just hanging out on a street," he said.

His photos remind him of moments in his life, stories or conversations from that time. He said he can typically remember where he was, who he was with and what the weather was like that day. He recalled walking through a small town in Italy with his camera. He began talking to an older gentleman and came to find out that this man was a World War II prisoner of war. He took a picture of the man before they parted ways.

"If I didn't take a picture of that guy, for some reason, I wouldn't remember (his story)," Wagner said.

To Wagner, photography is about freezing a moment in his life that he would otherwise forget. He said that when he goes through his photo database, he can re-experience his entire year.

It was difficult for Wagner to narrow his selection down to 40 photos for his pop-up exhibit. He went through about 1,000 of his top photos and picked out the images that would best fit the space. Since it was his first exhibit, he decided to pick out the images that made him laugh or smile so most of the photos are "jovial, fun, light ones which I think are beautiful still and have good composition."

Wagner's photos will be on display at BreakAway Cafe through Jan. 31.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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