BY DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN
DURHAM – John Zager met a lot of regulars when he worked at Madhatter Bake Shop & Café for two years while his wife was a graduate student at Duke University. He showed them photographs he’d been taking of places around Durham, and was surprised that many longtime residents didn’t know the back story of the buildings.
Zager has self-published a collection of photos of Durham, and their back story, in “Durham In Changing Light.” Images from the book will be displayed in an exhibit at Through This Lens gallery opening today downtown, which is also his book launch.
Zager grew up in Minnesota and lived outside Seattle before moving to Durham in 2008, and moved back to Seattle a year ago. Those areas have historic buildings, he said, but when he got to Durham he felt the structures here had stories to tell. He followed Gary Kueber’s website Endangered Durham, about the history and present of Durham’s buildings. Kueber wrote the introduction to Zager’s book, referring to Durham with an adjective not often used: “beautiful.”
Zager, who lived in Croasdaile Apartments, said he was intrigued by Durham’s neighborhoods, in particular Old West Durham and Watts Hospital-Hillandale. Both are featured in the book, as well as Duke, East Durham and much of downtown. Another segment focuses on Durham’s origins and natural surroundings.
The images of Durham were taken day and night, using no flash and usually a tripod for Zager’s Canon 5D digital SLR.
“A lot of people come to Durham from outside, like the Northeast, and come to work at Duke or the Research Triangle area and see it as a beautiful place to live,” Zager said. “The history is all around you but not very apparent. There aren’t many plaques or museums,” he said.
Zager said he didn’t intend “Durham In Changing Light” as a historical guide, but rather to highlight certain places in Durham and to show why the Bull City consistently tops lists of best places to live.
Read more: The Herald-Sun – Durham s back story