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Photo LA –by Jeff Dunas


Last Friday was the opening of the 20th PhotoLA. Initiated twenty years ago by Los Angeles Gallery owner Stephen Cohen, this venerable photo fair has become the largest photo – centric art fair of its kind west of New York. The fair, which originally gathered a small group of American galleries at the Butterfield and Butterfield auction headquarters on Sunset Boulevard, has since grown into a large and influential fair comprised of the world’s most influential photography galleries. Cohen seemed ebullient and relaxed as he surveyed the 20th edition of his dream art fair. Collectors, actors, models and the fashionable, chic art crowd of Los Angeles all came to enjoy the party. The usual suspects were present – prominent galleries presented works ranging from rare black and whites to contemporary color works. It is unlikely that people were able to see the works on display with so much more to see than just the photographs. The fair ran from Friday through Monday evening. PhotoLA has proved to be an important indicator of our local economy’s resurgence. In four days we’ll know if the hip Los Angeles crowd is still devoted to photography.

As PhotoLA entered its second day a sizable crowd came to see the pictures. There was no dominant thread – no new “flavor of the month”, no new currents to speak of that I could discern. There was a bit of everything from the truly vintage (a 1921 signed Edward Weston Pictorialist print – price: $600,000 -) to the truly contemporary massive color prints, including works by Stephen Wilkes. As I walked through the fair – two – three times, I decided that rather than try to understand the deeper meaning of the works presented and what the total said for the future of print sales, I would photograph my « coups de Cœur » – images demanding my attention. In the end, all but one were vintage – somehow the smaller, black and white prints meant more to me than the contemporary work and I’m not sure if that bodes well. The fair was a success – attendance was good. The truth is a great photograph is still as rare as ever – an image with depth and meaning is something to covet and cherish as always. Photography is a glorious medium and will remain glorious when it’s great. There are few great practitioners, a fact that has never changed – that can truly say something that touches the eyes and the heart.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Parallel to PhotoLA, is Classic Photography Los Angeles, a fringe group of 13 galleries that have created their own competing event. Classic Photographs Los Angeles ran for two days, Saturday and Sunday, with an opening reception on Friday evening. Some of the evening’s visitors included Virginia Heckert of the Getty Museum, Dr. Katherine Martinez, the new Director of the Center for Creative Photography in Arizona, members of the Los Angeles County Art Museum Photographic Arts Council, former gallery owner and dealer G. Ray Hawkins, Lauren Wendle, Publisher of Photo District News, Carol McCusker, former curator of the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego and others.
Jeff Dunas Los Angeles

Jeff Dunas has been a professional photographer for forty years. He devotes his time to his personal work and the Palm Springs Photo Festival of which he is Founder and Director. He has attended all 20 PhotoLA fairs

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