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Photography and Community

Summer 2023

June 21st - September 22nd



Camera Club outing at the residence of Frank Q. Story, Alhambra, California, Wikimedia Commons.

Photographers have always been a rather chummy lot. It seems like collaboration and community is baked into our DNA and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fundamental nature of the field and what it is that makes us so community oriented - and often so different than other disciplines. Part of it may be that the strong technological aspect of the field necessitates a lot of education (you still find camera clubs all over the place having speakers and learning about new methods). Our darkrooms, like ceramic kilns, are often group spaces and that has also fostered a certain kind of co-operative culture.

Photography is a discipline with both fine and commercial art practices and, as such, was often excluded from the hierarchy of the traditional art world. Even now, walk into any museum store and you’ll see the big “Art” section and then next to it the smaller “Photography” section. I’m a bit mixed about that issue though - it pisses me off…but it does make it easier to find what I’m looking for. Timewise, we are also closer to our inception, which has meant that many of our institutions have been led by artists instead of academicians…and that makes a difference in steering the dialog and fostering a tradition of artists creating spaces for others.

I started curating because I was interested in exploring ideas about art in general - to show the range of what artists were doing and how they were interpreting different themes. My first attempts at curating exhibitions were in grad school and utilized skills I'd developed in the previous decade organizing commercial photoshoots. It seemed like such a natural thing to do - find something you feel is interesting, shine a light on it and have a voice in the dialogue while you bring different ideas into the mix.

I also come by this mindset very naturally and must celebrate both my mother, Dolores Mitchell and my father, Albert Mitchell, for providing me with great examples of the personal and political responsibilities we have, not only to our own communities, but to the world at large. In the 1960s they ran a coffeehouse on LA’s Sunset Strip called The Fifth Estate (music, art, film and politics) as well as two underground newspapers, the Los Angeles Underground and L.A. Metro.  Now in her 90s, my mother continues to teach art history and publish a monthly newsletter,  Art Talk, while still making sure she paints every day.


Mitchell Family Album, photographer unknown

The seven artists in this showcase have expanded the dialogue in photography by creating space for others to develop their own voice. Whether through education, curation, publishing or organizing, they’ve helped change our photographic landscape. I wanted to shine a light on their own work, because all of that community building can take time away from one’s artistic practice, no matter how satisfying it is. Join me in celebrating the magic of their voices.

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