This is a review/paper from a class a year and a half ago. I still stand by the disappointment I had at going to a new and wonderful space for photography and much of the images were projected or slide shows on screens. I still want to see the physical photograph if that was how it was made and captured!
A visit to the inaugural exhibit L8sAng3les at the newly open Annenberg Space for Photography was an exciting and appropriate curation. It featured eleven Los Angles photographers, three of whom are celebrated staff photographers at the Los Angeles Times. The work of 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning, LA Times photographer, Carolyn Cole made one stop and take a second look. One reason I was compelled to linger was that photojournalism and documenting gruesome events was a reason for my choice to not to pursue studying photography in college. Cole has been to many war torn areas including the Middle East, Kosovo and Afghanistan and covering these places for over twenty years.
The image that haunted me was an 11 x 14 color photograph, taken August of 2004 in Iraq after /during the Battle for Najaf. It is a close up of a U.S. Marine and he is looking off the left, with a bead or two of sweat on his face. His arms and relaxed and behind his head. The camouflage make-up and his hairline make a line that looks like a headband or scarf at first glance. Between the light on his face and chest and the white of the camouflage makeup, the image doesn’t feel like war photography or photojournalism but fashion photography. His painted face is also dark around the eyes so the whites of his eyes stand out. This image of a soldier is anonymous as the patch on his right breast doesn’t show or reveal his last name.
All that is described above seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the photographer. Either one can’t show identifying features of soldiers in combat or this as a choice makes the image one of “everyman” and it shows a quiet moment in the midst of chaos. The pose also makes one think about what is normal when in war.
There was much to learn from this exhibition. The Annenberg Space for Photography sounds exciting, but the place is a lesson in new museums and practices. When visiting the location on a Sunday, there was very little activity around the space. While a thriving business district on the weekdays, there is no support of other business to make this a weekend stroll or day activity. One can’t stumble upon this space but must have the destination in mind to visit. As it is called the Annenberg Space for Photography, one would expect to see photographs. There was very little hung on the walls or wall space for that matter. Much of the space uses digital frames and LCD displays to showcase the work. While this looks forward to new ways of curation, most was displayed like a power point or Ken Burns pan and scan presentation so the onlooker was told where to look versus interfacing and interacting with the image as an image. It will be interesting to see what future exhibits look like at this space.