Culture Report: Photography's Dynamic Past and Promising Future - Voice of San Diego


Culture Report: Photography's Dynamic Past and Promising Future

MOPA makes a statement about the future of photography by opening a local student exhibition alongside a century-spanning glimpse at the medium’s history.

Rayann Velanzuela
Rayann Velanzuela’s “Crescendo,” is on display at MOPA’s “Dreamscapes” youth exhibition. / Photo courtesy of MOPA

Each year, the Museum of Photographic Arts highlights exceptional work by San Diego and Tijuana students through a juried contest, and this year’s exhibition, “Dreamscapes,” is now showing in the Balboa Park pay-what-you-can institution.

And last week, MOPA, which is one of just three independent photography museums in the country, opened another new exhibition, “The Stories They Tell: A Hundred Years of Photography.” That project looks at photography’s history and transformations through their archives. And at nearly 9,000 works from more than 850 photographers, MOPA’s archives are vast.

“I think one of the things that MOPA does very well is help share the importance of lens-based media,” said Deborah Klochko, MOPA’s executive director and chief curator.

Brett Weston
Brett Weston, “Untitled (Dune (detail), Baja California),” 1968, at MOPA’s “The Stories They Tell: A Hundred Years of Photography” exhibition / Photo courtesy of MOPA

“We have [A Hundred Years of Photography] as part of our entry, our atrium area, and then the majority of the main gallery space. At the same time, we have ‘Dreamscapes,’ our 14th annual youth exhibition up,” Klochko said. “It’s actually a really nice pairing of exhibitions. You can see what the youth of San Diego and Tijuana are doing, and also look at what the masters of photography are doing. In a sense we are promoting the next generation of great photographers.”

To Klochko, looking at the medium’s present and future is just as important, if more bewildering, than looking at its past.

Klochko said that photography’s present moment is as vital and dynamic as when the first photographs were taken in 1839. “Though we live in a digital world where you can upload a constant stream of images, it doesn’t mean we’re literate in understanding our visual culture,” she said.

For MOPA, the “Hundred Years of Photography” exhibition is about more than just sharing the stories that would otherwise be stored away, it’s also about helping audiences understand what it means to take, share and consume a picture.

Troi Anderson
Troi Anderson, “Untitled #12,” 2016, at MOPA’s “The Stories They Tell: A Hundred Years of Photography” exhibition / Photo courtesy of MOPA

And the youth “Dreamscapes” exhibition is not just about the direction the art form may be heading, but is also an interior study of each artist’s fears and hopes.

“What we want to show is not only the beauty and art of photography, but also the power of the medium, its implication for social change and the messages that get sent,” Klochko said. “All of those are very crucial today.”

A portion of the works in the Dreamscapes youth exhibition champion digitally manipulated and obscured art, exploring the way young people view their anxiety and their place in a social structure.

Ariana Johnson
“Creative Thoughts,” by Ariana Johnson is on display at MOPA’s “Dreamscapes” youth exhibition. / Photo courtesy of MOPA

While a jury of local experts selected these youth works from submitted entries, curating the “Hundred Years of Photography” show involved patience (and lots of databases). Klochko wanted to tell career-spanning stories, showing several images for each artist. After digitally narrowing down the field to 2,000 or so works, Klochko and the team at MOPA then began to thumb through it all — sometimes literally. When the collections team pulled a batch from climate-controlled storage, the boxed works would have to rest for three days to acclimate. Then, Klochko would take a look. This process took approximately two months.

“A Hundred Years of Photography” begins as early as 1920 and has a sweeping range: Brett Weston’s 1970s abstract work in the lobby area, contemporary American Michael Light’s eerie, large-scale aerial landscapes, plus Alexander Rodchenko, Graciela Iturbide, Joan Myers, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen, Robert ParkeHarrison and many more — more than 150 total pieces.

Is its adjacency to the youth exhibition a sign that their works herald the future of photography? “Absolutely,” said Klochko.

The Stories They Tell: A Hundred Years of Photography” opens Oct. 12 and runs through February. “Dreamscapes: 14th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition” is now open and runs through March.

More Arts and Culture News and Happenings

Visual Art

  • Art San Diego takes place this weekend at the Convention Center, featuring artist talks, panels, film screenings and more. Friday afternoon’s “first look free Friday” is a chance to browse the exhibit hall for free. Don’t miss the four exceptional San Diego Art Prize finalists for 2020: Alanna Airitam, Griselda Rosas, Kaori Fukuyama and Melissa Walter.
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership recently challenged its community — often not artists — to create pieces of art based loosely on the theme of “work.” The exhibition, gracing the halls of the organization offices, is open to the public, as is Workforce Partnership’s headquarters.
San Diego Workforce Partnership
“Receipts,” by Dia Bassett / Photo courtesy of San Diego Workforce Partnership

Film and Literature


  • U.S. tickets are sold out for Sunday afternoon’s “Choir! Choir! Choir!” which forms a public choir on both sides of the border fence, but attendance on the Tijuana side is open to all. Though ArtPower is not managing the Tijuana side of the event, it recommends walking across the border (bring passports) and ridesharing to Las Playas de Tijuana to find the crowd along the beach.
  • The Horsenecks, a touring classic/Appalachian-style bluegrass band performs on Friday at Kalabash Music and Arts School, a sweet hamlet of music and art education for all ages in Bird Rock.
  • Looks like not only has year-end-list season started, but it’s decade-end-list season. Pitchfork set Twitter music nerds a-fighting Monday with its 200 best songs of the 2010s list, and this morning just released its 200 best albums of the 2010s.

Theater and Dance

Tech, Science and Culture

  • Only Here, KPBS’s border arts and culture podcast, covers Barrio Logan’s lowrider car cruise, La Vuelta, in the latest episode.
  • Michael Wilken-Robertson, author of “Kumeyaay Ethnobotany,” will give a talk on Wednesday at the San Diego Archeological Center in Escondido about his work studying the Kumeyaay relationship with regional plants.
  • On Monday, the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists presents a panel on writing headlines and social media posts featuring local headline masters (including VOSD’s Sara Libby). Free and open to the public.

Miscellany and More

  • Pride by the Beach hits Oceanside on Saturday, with music, art, food, advocacy, a youth zone and more.
  • Phoenix-based fiber artist Robyn Parker teaches a basket weaving workshop on Sunday at Communal Coffee.
  • This year’s Orchids and Onions awards have been announced! My highlights: an orchid for placemaking to the Linda Vista Skate Park, an orchid for the Borrego Springs Library and in “contains multitudes” fashion, the Mission Hills Library’s orchid for its interior public art and onion for architecture. (Times of San Diego)
  • Call for artists: Ready your tiny submissions. The 1805 Gallery and Portofino Hotel collaborative Vend Arts project seeks 4-by-6-inch works: paintings, limited-run prints, USB drives, tiny stories, etc. Send ‘em in by Oct. 28.

Closing Soon

Food, Etc.

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