January 15, 2012
What a grand name, first of all: The 21st Annual International Photographic Art Exposition. Damn. This had better be spectacular. It’s not just “regular photography”, not just from one city, and has been happening for over two decades.
Photo LA is its shortened name, and the event this year brings together 39 international galleries mixing vintage, contemporary, and multimedia to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The 4-day event has its usual Hipness Requisite of opening party, celebrity names, a Smashbox make up chair, and DJs spinning in the café (serving smore’s cakes + gourmet grilled cheese). The photographic art portion offered panel discussions, author signings, docent walks, and photography societies. The most redeeming aspect is how Photo LA benefits the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art’s photography department. I missed Moby at the Opening Party and didn’t buy tickets for his Saturday book signing, but who knew that he’s been taking photos longer than making music?
The setup lays out several galleries displaying their collectible art with their representative quietly poised to answer questions, take payment, or thwart thieves. Priced from a few hundred to over $10,000, I didn’t observe many purchases. Most people glanced at the photos like they’re strolling through a museum. This brings up the question of how much these prints resonate with collectors given how photographic art competes with all other forms of art collecting?
I found myself most attracted to the historical black and white vintage with human subjects. After seeing several exhibits with framed prints properly set against walls, Argentic’s display proved the most refreshing due it its accessibility. Argentic simply tacked up prints and displayed individual photos in a binder to easily flip through. The clear sleeves show casually hand written notes on the back of faded photos capturing rare moments. This display evokes an authentic realness because you feel like you’re looking through a close friend’s photo album. The distance between the photographer and collector feels closest.
What makes an image artistically endure through two centuries of technological evolution of cameras, software, and Internet?
Is it the moment in time, composition, lighting, subject, photographer, or all of the above?
Contrast Photo LA’s 11,000 fans versus Instagram skyrocketing from 1 million to 15 million app users in one year. Instagram lets anyone with a smart phone apply artistic affects to photos to reach millions of people, which presses against classically trained photographers who have been building their craft and identify for decades. Instagram and Photo LA similarly connect a community of impassioned people, which ultimately fosters a broader dialog.
Perhaps it all boils down to what makes our hearts flutter in that rush from past memories to future hopes, through our grand and mundane daily lives. Whether it’s shoved in a shoebox, hung in a gallery, or stored on a server/ cloud/ or hard drive… snap on!