Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I was happier than most to see MOPLA's creation last year. Despite the growing pains and initial mistakes any such endeavor would experience, I was excited to welcome this celebration of photography to Los Angeles.

It struck me as funny back then that there would be no juried show as part of the festival, where local photographers could submit and be showcased. Instead, someone made executive decisions as to who was included. While this is fine and quite normal in the art world, I hoped that year two would bring Angeleno photographers an opportunity to submit and be considered.

Instead, what we've got is this:
The Month of Photography Los Angeles will deliver the most comprehensive celebration of the Los Angeles Photography Community to date. With the support of the Photography Community, MOPLA will showcase the work of 160 Photographers who live, work and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles (emphasis mine) through our Exhibitions and Projections. The city of Los Angeles turns 160 years old in April 2010. The theme for MOPLA 2010 is 160/160 - Celebrating 160 years of Los Angeles through 160 Photographers.
Well, the problem with this is that it isn't true. Before delving into this, I'd like to preface it by saying that I've exhibited alongside and know personally some of the photographers I'll be naming. I'm a fan of much of their work. The issue is that these fine photographers DO NOT "live, work and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles."

Some may have shows up at Los Angeles galleries and while that's great and all, it certainly gives the impression that nepotism or plutocracy is at play here.

PDN, a New York institution, will present a show of the PDN 30, just like last year. While I think this is great and all, to includ all 30 photographers in the list of 160 that purportedly are local or have worked locally is preposterous. It means that nearly 20% of those represented are represented as a favor to PDN and not because they have anything to do with our local photographic community. PDN is a magazine and a sponsor of the event and as such, appears to have been rewarded with 30 slots that should have gone to Angelenos.

I see there are currently 91 photographers that have been chosen as the group of 160. Were we to take out the 27 or so PDN selections that have nothing to do with LA and the remaining 10 photographers (see below) that have nothing to do with our fine city, save for local galleries putting on shows of their work or their agency being based here, that leaves us with just 54 photographers that match MOPLA's description, leaving 106 slots to be filled.

I call on MOPLA to fill these locally and partly through a juried exhibition. For obvious reasons, I won't enter and wouldn't expect to be selected. They can start with this blog and look at all the fine featured work that has appeared since its inception if they need any inspiration.

Included photographers who do not "
live, work and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles:"

27 of the PDN 30 photographers (to be conservative, though I don't see any outside Alex Prager who are local so it could be 29)

Bill Sosin
David Bacher
Eva Kolenko (Bay area at least...)
Evelyn Hofer
Ginny Mangrum (Bay area at least...)
Jamey Stillings
Jon Johnson
Morgan Silk
Robert Bueltman (Bay area, at least...)
Robert Stivers

54 out of 160*

*My apologies if I overlooked something in compiling this list - I made a serious effort to research each one. I tried to be conservative and even left those that grew up or studied here but do not
"live, work and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles" since they are local in my mind. Still, we end up with just 52-54 out of the 91 named so far.

I welcome this fledgling event to our local community but wish they would execute better. Selecting outsiders when you state that you are selecting local photographers is an insult to our community.
Finding 160 talented local photographers should not require too much effort if that is actually your intent. I'd be happy to make suggestions.

I know there are people that will not be happy with this posting. It probably won't do me any favors as a photographer, but having started WCST to help foster a greater photographic community in Los Angeles, how can I not speak out publicly about something that makes false claims and does just the opposite?

We are a thriving photographic community.

UPDATE: It was just pointed out to me by a fellow photographer/blogger that the entire roster of the LA-based agency, Sharpe + Associates is on the list; not just some of them. Hmm...


OV said...

Excellent post and observation! I totally agree that MOPLA's statement, "160 Photographers who live, work and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles through our Exhibitions and Projections" is very misleading. Don't get me wrong, the 30 PDN photographers selected bring their unique voices to the medium, however, many of them have nothing to do with the Los Angeles artistic community, or even projects relevant to Los Angeles. MOPLA should really change their statement of intent, if that is the case. Or as you suggest, really choose some local L.A. talent.

Katrina said...

Great post, I love it! I think it’s great that you’re speaking your mind and bringing attention to this issue. They definitely could have found “Los Angeles” photographers to fill these slots, there are so many talented people here making art in this city. Had they called this venue something other than an Angeleno photography exhibit, it would have been okay; it’s a shame…

Anonymous said...

Good post ! Thanks for bring this to light ! I know they made some missteps last year for their first year and hope they get better for this year....or maybe not.

My question, since we are so close to April, where's the rest of the 160 list ? You figure they had it down by now !

J. Wesley Brown said...

@OV - Yes, PDN is fine but they should not take the place of talented Angelenos on that list. Man, I could name 50 right now who belong on there. I can't imagine it's difficult to get photographers to agree to exhibit their works as part of something like this. They seem either to have had no interest in doing so or just didn't try that hard.

@Anon - Sadly, I fear you are correct - with such little time left it's probably a done deal and yeah, I don't know where those remaining photogs are to come from. I just hope some of the local galleries put some pressure on before participating next year so as to ensure the festival really is a celebration of our photo community.

OV said...

Interestingly enough the MOPLA site updated their description and eliminated the "160 photographers who live, work, and/or have extensive bodies of work relevant to Los Angeles..."

Now says the following:
"With the support of the Photography Community, MOPLA will showcase the work of 160 Photographers worldwide. "

I guess they responded to your post.

Anonymous said...

congrats for having the cojones and speaking up about this issue.

This show should have been about the artists/photographers who actually live AND work in LA.

Shame on MOPLA.

Hossein said...

Thank you for asking me to respond to you post.

You are right we failed in getting 160 great photographers from LA. We, through print advertising (23 ads), email blast, newsletters, our websites and word of mouth announced MOPLA's intention months ago. None of you or commentators send in your work. I am not personally familiar with your work. but if you think your worthy of an exhibition then you should put your calculator aside and send your works in for consideration. I am always open for constructive criticism but this posts are not one in my opinion.

MOPLA is a community event. Its not a for profit event. Its all volunteer based. Its an event to put the photography community on the map so YOU and the rest of the community can benefit.

I challenge you and invite you, to gather 50 or 20, or as many as you can, great photographer's work, together find a venue, put an exhibition together and MOPLA will publicize it for you. Do your part! Volunteer to help.

We are doing this to promote the art that has given us so much. I write the check each year to support it, a few hundred thousands dollars.

If you and your readers love photography and are part of LA photography scene. Why don't you get involve. This is as much your event as anyone else in LA.

Publishing profanity on your site does not offend me, offends the hard working photography community that is trying to do something good in this town, in this difficult times. I am used to negative people hiding behind their computers and sending anonymous emails.
There are cowards that like to complain about everything and blame everyone for their short comings and there are doers that get involve and make something better because they believe they can.

MOPLA will have a life of its own like many other events that I have envisioned, thanks in big part to positive, supporting community that has embraced them. I hope you and your reader join the rest of the community in making MOPLA a big success.

See you at the opening!

J. Wesley Brown said...

Hossein - I'm glad you responded as all of the feedback I've gotten in response to my posts from other local photographers has been supportive of my position, which I did try to present as constructively as possible. I will admit that my attention grabbing logo up there may have been a bit much and so I apologize for that. I tried to be as respectful as possible in the posts, while offering up my views of what wasn't working.

It brings me great joy that you are offering a chance to put on a show of local photographers' work (although I do not consider myself a curator) as part of MOPLA from that which has appeared on WCST or perhaps through a contest that I, and other local members of our community might create, if MOPLA does not plan to do so already for next year's edition.

I would love to get involved in the event and I know others that would too, but it was never made clear that this was open to us for collaboration. It seemed last year and this, that MOPLA was a top-down type of event, again with no call for entries or requests for ideas or help. I have been on the mailing list and have read each notice with care and interest but never saw such an invitation to our community.

With such a short time-frame, I doubt that organizing, printing, framing and locating a venue for an additional show would be possible for this year, though I will make some inquiries. Actually, the venue is probably the bottleneck here so if you have any ideas or connections, I'd be happy to organize something for at least the second half of MOPLA.

Otherwise, I know for certain that I and others would welcome the chance to volunteering our time and effort towards making MOPLA a success in years to come.

(I'll be posting your response and mine in a separate post also)