Photo LA and Classic Photographs Los Angeles
written by Noelle Swan Gilbert and Clay Lipsky
Photo LA, an annual event founded in 1992 by dealer Stephen Cohen, is in it’s 24th year and brings together a varied mixed of galleries, exhibitors, publishers, educators and vendors to celebrate the photographic medium. The fair has gone through many changes since its earliest days at Butterfield’s Auction House and later at Santa Monica Airport when opening night was an actual red carpet event with celebrities and paparazzi. A tightening economy, fewer galleries and behind the scenes politics caused the once cosmopolitan show’s star to slowly fade. Other photo oriented events such as Paris Photo LA and Classic Photographs also began to vie for photo collector’s attention and dollars. However, in 2014 Photo LA relocated to downtown Los Angeles and it’s gone through a transformation. The change of venue helped breathe new life into the event and it’s been bolstered by ever increasing popularity of photography.
Catherine Opie, the 2013 recipient of the Julius Shulman Excellence in Photography Award and the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2009, was Photo LA 2015’s installation and opening night honoree.
Another featured installation was Point of View: Selections from Los Angeles, which invited local collectors to share a photograph from their personal collection and speak about their experience as a collector. The installation was intimate and an inspiration to viewers and collectors at all levels.
This year the booths reflected a range of photography. Black and white has made a strong comeback in contemporary work. The days of the oversized color prints seems to be waning in favor of personal and documentary based projects. South African artist Ralph Ziman’s surreal project Ghosts, at C.A.V.E. Gallery, portrays Africa’s obsession with guns and power with portraits of Zimbabwean street vendors dressed in knitted masks, holding beaded AK-47s. To recall his own family history from 1940 when 8000 farms in the Netherlands were destroyed to clear fields and create shooting ranges to prevent the fast approaching German army, Henri Van Noordenburg’s ‘water line’s (at Queensland Centre for Photography) combines two techniques; one the historical archival photographic image from 1940 and the other is the narrative created by etching the print” to imagine the events. And Monroe Gallery’s exceptional exhibition Selma: 50 Years is even more poignant today with recent headline events in Ferguson and across the country drawing much needed attention to racial inequality in America.
Photo LA’s programming includes descent tours, artist talks, technical demonstrations and panel discussions. Most of the foot traffic comes over the weekend, and I look forward to the event every year. I have gone from anonymous attendee, to being chosen as an emerging talent, to exhibiting with a gallery, and now reporting as a member of Lenscratch. It’s always a great, exhaustive experience to see the work, but the bigger thrill comes from crossing paths with my friends in the photo community in LA, from social media and beyond. The shared passion, support and spirit makes it worthwhile event no matter what is showing. Combined with the other art fairs and galleries, I am glad to see photography alive in Los Angeles.
Classic Photographs Los Angeles, founded in 2010, presents a world-class selection of vintage, modern and contemporary photography. It began with ten exhibitors and has grown in six years to include 27 galleries and dealers from four countries. Held at Bonhams in West Hollywood, Classic Photographs is an intimate and serious setting and is where serious fine art photography admirers and collectors participate in curated tours and consultations on photography conservation and enjoy an amazing collection of classic photography.
A few selfies by the authors…
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