Every year I go to Photo L. A. afraid it may have lost its charm. Every year I am wrong. Thursday night is opening night. Pretty people, artists and photographers abound, the aisles are filled with chatter and commotion and as always I am torn between what’s on the wall and who’s in the aisles. I love it but it’s not a time to see the work. That comes Friday.
Friday this year I began at a large truck parked just outside the entrance to the show. The truck carries a shipping container converted into a camera and darkroom. It’s called The Liminal Camera, a project of The Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio. It’s wonderful. Stepping inside the darkened space of the container you see the world outside projected onto a wall that carries a sensitized plate. The artists of the Metabolic Studio use this monster to make pictures about the environment using materials gleaned from the environment. The pictures from the camera are upstairs at the show so after spending a little while learning about the process I head inside to do some looking. There is much to see.
Photo L.A. is the peoples show. Not that there isn’t high end stuff to be seen but for the most part it’s photography without the precious prices and attitude of the stratospheric galleries. My bet is that if you trust your judgement and your eye you can find photographers here who will become much better known over the next few years. Regardless, this is a show where the photographers show up in the booths, interested in talking about their work with anyone who walks up.
There’s more than the booths of course, the programs and installations are first rate, offering good thinking about where photography is at this moment and where it might be going.
As always, I wander the aisle without preparation, waiting for pictures to call me and as always they do. This year I was much taken by the work of Yasunori Masui showing at AN Inc., large and beautiful inkjet prints on handmade paper, pictures of animals, their eyes the center of interest. A little ways down the hall Galerie Thierry Bigaignon was showing new silver prints made from vintage Ralph Gibson negatives. Silver printing is alive and well and these new prints are wonderful to see. At Parkview Gallery there were large metallic landscapes, classic views by Suzy Ro, and at Cohen Gallery you could see the results of Stephen Cohen’s lifetime of collecting and curating spread out on tables and walls, a cornucopia of photography for the gazing. There was more of course, much more. I could write thousands of words about the pictures I saw but really you have to see them. Really, really, you have to see them.
Finally, every year there is one picture that calls me most strongly. It’s an emotional thing, not necessarily the newest or the most famous but a picture that makes me feel good looking at it. This year my favorite was David Bowie on the set of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Photographed by Steve Schapiro and hanging at the Monroe Gallery, it seemed to me to be a picture that had everything; a great face, light, color, emotion and presence. Looking at it I was reminded why we make pictures and how they can open our minds and hearts. This year especially it seems to me we need to see pictures that can do that every day. Thanks to everyone who showed your work and exposed your heart at Photo L.A. this year. See you when 2018 rolls around.
Andy Romanoff is a photographer and writer specializing in photography based in Los Angeles, USA.
January 12 to January 15, 2017
7354 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
About Andy Romanoff: