The Relentless Joy of Toni Smailagic 

By Shelton Hull

The second release of Toni Smailagic’s book, Introducing Jacksonville to Jacksonville, was probably the first major social and cultural event of 2022. (The book was originally released in 2019, but sales were halted during the pandemic.) The event was held at Ruby Beach Brewing Company on Forsyth Street just a block from the Florida Theatre. Among the attendees were creators such as Kim Barry, Brooks Colleton, Clark Creamer, and Jim Draper, and media people such as Blythe Brumleve, Badr Milligan, and Matthew Shaw. DJ Lunaxcel provided the music, while the Cre8Jax logo was projected on a wall behind their massive back patio. Smailagic held court at the merchandise table, but most of his time was spent in motion, using his camera to document his own event as thoroughly as he’s done for countless others over the past few years. His photos were posted within 48 hours.

As book titles go, it’s hard to think of any more appropriate. Bosnian by birth, Smailagic began his career as an outsider looking into a local scene that predates his own birth by decades, as do many of the creators he covers. But time moves fast, and so does he, so it wasn’t long before he was just as well-known as the subjects of his work. During these years, he’s shot photos of art shows, book signings, fashion shows, concerts, jam sessions, protests, political rallies, and almost everything else you can imagine, while also building his portfolio of portraiture. Much of this material is collected in the book, which makes itself immediately indispensable for further study.

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Author: Arbus

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