The Power of Photography

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 Where: The Annenberg Space for Photography

Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City

Every time I step into the courtyard of the Annenberg Space for Photography, I look up at these two massive buildings that form a cocoon around me and somehow forget the hustle and bustle of Santa Monica Boulevard just beyond. This is quite ironic given that this same courtyard is shared with other prominent businesses, namely Creative Artists Agency, likely making it quite the opposite of experiences Monday through Friday as talent agents wheel and deal on their next big project. However, on the weekends, most of the activity is to your far right at what has become one of my favorite (and free!) ways to spend a weekend afternoon, checking out the latest photography exhibition at “The Space.”

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{Exterior, The Annenberg Space for Photography.}

I’ve seen a handful of exhibitions at The Annenberg Space for Photography over the last 3 years since discovering this gem among the massive buildings, ranging in visual commentary, genre, and tone. Themes span from topics such as the social connotations on the culture of beauty, to those who helped shape the evolution of rock & roll music, to capturing the risk and devastation of war photography. Without fail, I find each exhibition to be more engaging than the last.

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{A few of the stills shared outside the galleries in the courtyard.}

Currently on display at “The Space” is a visual tribute to National Geographic Magazine’s 125th anniversary, known for publishing some the most recognizable and iconic images in history, aptly titled “The Power of Photography.” The Annenberg transforms nearly every single ounce of wall space into a mosaic, sharing over 400 photographs from Nat Geo’s famed collection. With nearly 11.5 million photographs in their archive, narrowing down the selection to put on display would be a challenge for anyone. I applaud how they chose to overcome such a challenge. Alongside the overwhelming print mosaic gracing its walls, the exhibition is expressively curated with 30 large, high-definition, LED screens installed into the walls – showcasing 501 images with stunning clarity, looping every 50 seconds or so.

What is quite magnificent about “The Power of Photography” exhibition is that because the screens are in a constant state of flow, looping through hundreds of images, you could walk the entire length of the show and start fresh or come again on another day – where you are guaranteed a new experience. This sounds pretty amazing in theory, and it is! Unfortunately, I also found it hard to navigate because of this.

This where my one criticism lies with digital exhibitions, particularly, in small spaces. Unlike print stills that invite you to look at the work and move on, multiple graphics in one place is quite the opposite. When the main attraction is on a large screen slowly sifting through images, it can only help but draw crowds of people to stand in front of each screen for long periods of time, creating clusters of people around you that disrupt your interaction with the works of art. If you’ve ever been to the Annenberg, it’s not the biggest of galleries. In fact, this is a complaint that I often have visiting here. It hasn’t deflected me from attending their amazing exhibitions because it still is one of the best curated galleries in town, but is a problem when visiting The Space on the weekends.

As you maneuver though the crowds in an attempt to absorb the photographs, what ultimately redeems itself, despite the cramped experience, is the work of art. You’re instantly struck by the the emotion in many of the images published in National Geographic Magazine throughout the years. I was awed as I took in vast architectural structures, the most eclectic of animals, portraits of people from all over the world, images capturing the conflict in humanity, while highlighting its undeniable beauty. I’ve been inspired to look into getting a National Geographic subscription to keep that awe with me long after the exhibition closes next month.

Unfortunately, due to copyright, photography is not allowed inside “The Space,” but the Huffington Post wrote a great article last fall sharing 15 of the highlights on display.

It’s quite amazing if you think about it. Photography, one of the oldest of visual mediums and artistic expressions, seems to be growing with age. Nearly everyone has a camera on their phone today. Instagram (a personal favorite on mine) now has over 150 million active users. And the blogoshpere continues to share stories using images to enhance their words. The point is that “The Power of Photography” is proving itself to be timeless.

The exhibition runs until Sunday, April 27th.

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Highlights

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{Taking in a moment of beauty during the chaos of this week.}

I know I’ve been an awful blogger this week, but I have a good excuse…at least I think so.

Life has been pretty insane lately on my end and I’m just now catching my breath long enough to be able to sit down, focus, and write. It’s been really busy at work and while dealing with the day-to-day, I’ve also been working on this big project for the last 2 weeks that I wanted to get done right, but that also weighed on me quite heavily because of my rather “perfectionistic tendencies” (that’s a cool new term I just came up with at this exact moment!). Needless to say, it was such a huge relief to complete it and hit the “send” button yesterday to finally get it off my plate!

Now that I’ve fully recovered from my recent bout with the common cold and I’m trying to re-balance and catch-up on life stuff once again, I’ve been able to get to the all important things that I haven’t had (or in certain cases made) the time to get to…(like blogging). Then again it’s been so crazy that you should’ve seen my fridge not too long ago (pictured below), that’s how “off” I’ve been lately. After a much-needed trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on groceries (yay, fresh produce!); finally deciding on my next book (that I know you’ll laugh at me about if I actually say what it is because it’s pretty trashy novel-esque – so I won’t for now!); along with finishing up that huge project and making a full recovery from my cold, it’s safe to say things are looking up!

I’m SO, SO, SO looking forward to the long holiday weekend! There’s still some more life stuff I need to catch-up on (like cleaning my bathroom, for one…hooray! NOT.) but Sunday evening cannot come any faster…but not too fast – I want to savor the weekend as long as possible. I’ll be at the Hollywood Bowl with my favorite person at my favorite place in all of L.A. I made a visit there this time last year, and had the time of my life. I’m sure this year will be even more magical. We’ll be celebrating a night of movies and music under the stars again with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and conductor, David Newman, but this time for The Big Picture: A Night at the Oscars.

I can’t wait to share how the evening goes with you next week and I promise you’ll hear from me more than once!

Until then, here are a few more highlights from a very busy week. See you soon! 🙂

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{When life gets in the way and you haven’t been to the grocery store in 2 weeks.}

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{A trip to the Arclight to see You’re Next. It’s an intentionally campy horror flick, but a pretty good time.}

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{A wonderful afternoon at The Annenberg Space for Photography to see their most recent exhibition – Helmet Newton: White Women, Sleepless Nights, Big Nudes. It closes September 8th.}

Highlights

Boy, did this week go by fast. So fast, in fact, that some of my things to do…went seemingly undone. I managed at the very least to give myself a spring pedi before rocking my new sandals and finally stopped talking the talk and joined the Brita family (yes, I was a slave to bottled water). No worries though, sometimes you just need to take it easy. Something that doesn’t come naturally to my slightly O.C.D., perfectionist-driven personality. I have to say, one of my favorite nights this week was simply coming home making my famous (Pinterest stolen) baked garlic chicken with a chopped side salad for dinner and settling in to watch Lolita, one of Stanley Kubrick’s films that I wanted to catch-up on after checking out the current exhibition at the LACMA a few weeks ago.

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While the week went by fast, it halted altogether when I heard the sad news of Roger Ebert’s passing. My heart raced as I absorbed the headline and was instantly transported to when I used to sit and watch him agree to disagree (or agree to agree) with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper on Sunday nights “At the Movies.”  With much bias, I tended to trust his judgement whenever he gave a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” in his film analysis. I was deeply saddened when I realized the balcony really is closed. Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert. From one film enthusiast to another, I always enjoyed being “At the Movies” with you.

WAR / Photography

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Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars #1000, Century City

I walked into this exhibition expecting at the very least to be emotionally challenged when coming face-to-face with the realities of war violence in a very direct and visually compelling way; to see a side of photography that I have never personally explored outside the occasional graphic or heart wrenching photo released in the media.

WAR/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and its Aftermath is the newest exhibition at The Annenberg Space for Photography that examines the imagery of war and its consequences. 75 photographers whose lenses have captured war as early as the Mexican American War in 1847 to the Libyan Civil War that ended in late 2011 are profiled.

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What I appreciated about this moving experience, was the structure in telling the narrative. Rather than displaying photos together by specific wars, the curators opted to tell the story of conflict, collectively, as an arc. As such, the presentation begins with the advent of combat, disclosing images that illustrate the exact moment that provokes a war; to memorials and remembrance, sharing the aftermath of destruction, death, and survival. Between these concrete bookends of beginning and end, the show spends time forming a powerful narrative arc by navigating areas such as: recruitment, rescue, the fight, daily life, post-traumatic stress disorder, medicine/triage, prisoners of war, refugees, impact on children, how faith/religion are handled, and even burial procedures among many other dynamic themes.

One of the first questions that came into my mind when I was first introduced to WAR/Photography, was why? Why do these photojournalists put their lives and mental well-being on the line to capture an image during live combat? Do we really need such graphic and melancholy pictures to know that war and violence is inherently bad? This is not to disrespect those who do choose to pursue the honorable career of war/military photography and have died in the process or any subject highlighted in the photos, but merely an honest thought that crossed my mind when approaching the content. I found my answer when watching the 30 minute short documentary complimenting the exhibition that loops in the main gallery space. When one photojournalist said that his aim was to “personalize war”  in an effort to “mature society” a light bulb went off in my head. The point, of course, is not only to document what’s happening (this I knew); but to visually humanize faces, names, family members, lives, cities, countries, people. This makes absolute sense to me. It’s a raw portrait of humanity.

Luckily, I watched the documentary before roaming the gallery. Having understood this fundamental observation for war photography straight from their mouths, I looked at the images in front of me with new eyes. Not to say that I wouldn’t have understood, appreciated, and respected the exhibition and its message without this explanation from the video; but I think getting to know some of the people behind the pictures and their purpose for risking their lives (and almost certain PTSD diagnosis) after having lived through such an ordeal for their mission to capture the story was inspiring.

I don’t know if it’s because it was the first set of photographs exhibited or perhaps because it’s still such a vivid memory in my lifetime as an American; but the 4 part picture series of the second plane heading toward the World Trade Center on 9/11, the North tower already in flames, capturing the exact moment that lead to the on-going War in Afghanistan, affected me immediately and set the tone for what would be a heavy experience as I made my way through the gallery.

I encourage you to see this exhibition. Beware, it’s graphic in nature – but an experience unlike anything you’ve seen. It’s disturbing, it’s infuriating, it’s moving, it’s humanizing. The exhibition runs until June 2nd.


{A trailer for the documentary complimenting the exhibition is below.}