Based in Greenville, North Carolina, Daniel Kariko is associate professor of fine art photography at East Carolina University. His work has been shown internationally in galleries and museums from Serbia and Croatia to Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. In the United States, he has exhibited at the Orlando Museum of Art, Florida, and the Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee, among other venues.
His photographs in Southbound, from his series SpeculationWorld: Topography of Real Estate Crisis in Florida, chart what he describes as a tipping point in that state as places associated with orange groves and cattle ranching were given over to land speculation and suburbanization. In the scramble to build houses everywhere during the early twenty-first century, Florida emerged as a cardinal point among the places in the New South experiencing hot real estate markets. One way to take measure of Florida’s housing bubble was through reality television’s fascination with flipping houses, resurgent now in Florida Flippers on the HGTV channel. Much more telling, in terms of directly showcasing the impact of the home construction frenzy on the landscape, are Kariko’s photographs. Further, his images reveal the underside of the bubble for people living in erstwhile boomtowns; viewers of these photographs cannot help but feel empathy for the poor souls condemned to inhabit the one or two homes built in failed subdivisions before everything went belly up after the crash of 2007–8. Residing in solitude among the network of empty streets laid out to connect those houses, these homeowners must experience an isolation reminiscent of that of early homesteaders farmed out across the country in search of an American Dream incarnated then as now in home ownership.
Kariko’s investigation of the cultural landscapes of economic cycles of boom and bust opens a window onto the Great Recession in the New South, nationally, and worldwide. His photographs range in scale from wide aerial views to ground-level scenes of houses within these subdivisions. Geographer Dennis Cosgrove has argued that America is best understood from above and Kariko’s decision to photograph primarily from the air allows us to appreciate patterns in the landscape as well as the monumental scale of the transformation of Florida’s agricultural lands into new suburban housing, whether realized or merely planned. Kariko’s photographs confront us directly with the effects of the foreclosure crisis on the landscape of Florida, suggesting new ways of thinking about our world.
SpeculationWorld may also prove prescient in warning of other looming, even larger crises, as human-driven climate change consumes our world over the coming decades and centuries. In this sense, these photographs connect with the work of other Southbound artists, including Daniel Beltrá, Mitch Epstein, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick, and Stacey Kranitz. More immediately, Kariko’s work calls into question important dimensions of the economic transformation of the region central to understanding today’s newest New South.