San Diego's Ecosystems On Exhibit At Natural History Museum
January 9, 2014 1:20 p.m.
Abe Ordover is owner of The Ordover Gallery in Solana Beach and curator of the Ecosystems of San Diego County photography exhibition that opens Jan. 11 at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
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MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. If you want to take a trip to the mountains or to the beach or the desert or if you want to see marine life or cactus flowers you happen to be in the right place. San Diego County is one of the most geographically diverse and the most biologically rich county in the nation. Now that diversity is being celebrated by several great photographers in a new exhibit at the San Diego natural history Museum. The photos display San Diego's rich ecosystems in all their beauty and complexity. I'd like to invite my guest. Abe Ordover is owner of the order for gallery and so on the beach and curator of the ecosystems of San Diego County photography exhibition at the San Diego natural history Museum. Abe, welcome to the program.
ABE ORDOVER: My pleasure to be here, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did the idea for this exhibit develop?
ABE ORDOVER: It developed over time. We have done probably 25 exhibits for the natural history Museum over the last seven years and many of them have been international in scope with international photographers and I felt that I wanted to do something local. In discussing it with Mick Edgar, the president, my post the idea of this richness that you have just described of our County. And why didn't we just look for local photographers just for this show. And send them out to photograph everything from the underwater world that are sure, the short itself and gradually moving along to the beach to the eroded cliffs that we have, into the lagoons. Hill country. The grasses and the woods and then we just moved up to mountains, countless, Badlands, deserts, all that is here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Abe, do you find that most people are surprised at the wide range of ecosystems and geography that are all within the borders of San Diego County?
ABE ORDOVER: I think most people are shocked. I mean, most people live in their community and they may take a trip out of their community, but ordinarily is not around San Diego County.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: know where the photographers in this exhibit, where they assigned areas to photograph or was it left wide open to them?
ABE ORDOVER: Both. Mostly it would give them a suggestion about what I thought I needed. Toward the end we had some holes and I pushed people to go over there and take some pictures over there.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are 80 photographs in the exhibition.
ABE ORDOVER: Approximately.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know this is difficult to do but could you possibly envision one or two in your mind and give us some idea of what these photographs are like?
ABE ORDOVER: They are all very different of course because we're covering this enormous ecosystem. When you walk into the exhibit the first ones you're going to see are Richard Herman's photographs of underwater creatures. Right where we swim. Right off the beach. And you're going to go right by that to these marvelous pictures of [inaudible] Delmore's off the shoreline itself. The variety of objects and rocks and mud holes. And looking out usually with a wide-angle lens that he uses out into the Pacific. Then it's my turn. You've got the lagoons and the birds in the lagoons. The lagoon vegetation enough although you wouldn't expect unless you tromp around that area. And it goes on like that. That each of us has picked not necessarily one area, but the photographers who photographed the desert, we have a lot of that as you would expect, the desert flowers, the vegetation there is very exciting. Lots of folks here will be seeing it essentially for the first time.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did you select the photographs?
ABE ORDOVER: I selected the photographers first as I said previously I wanted them all to be professionals often San Diego County. Some of them I've used in exhibitions before. Some of them I've known pretty well. Some are new to me and came to me by reputation. I wanted people who obviously were very confident, competent at what they do. They then sent me a wide variety of materials that they already had. And what I was trying to do, I hope successfully was you know, 14 photographers you really don't want to hang 80 pictures of the same thing. So I had to call through a great deal of their work to come out with these images around the county and not have the photographers stepping on each other's toes. And I think we've succeeded in doing that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Talk to me if you would, you become a little bit about nature photography. Anyone who's seen National Geographic, other magazines knows that nature photographs are exquisite.
ABE ORDOVER: Well they can be exquisite.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right but what is the goal? Is it to make it real or pretty?
ABE ORDOVER: I think with most photographers it is to photograph the reality of the scene. Most of the things that you will see from, that you see in National Geographic and we've been very fortunate in that we have hosted many exhibitions of National Geographic photographers right here at the natural history Museum and we're going to continue doing that. They are there to tell a story. Those photographers are trying with their work to tell a story. I think amateurs who go out there are trying to take as good pictures as they can and there are some extraordinarily talented amateurs Ray here. And they want accuracy. And then we move on to artistic work in the sense that some of it is an attempt to make it pretty, some of it can be very abstract and impressionistic. A lot of my work is like that. Although, not in the show. So I think that photographers cover a wide area and it depends pretty much on their interest and where they are traveling. Where you travel has a lot to do with---
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What kind of photographs you take, yes. Were the photographers in this exhibit, did they specialize in the things that they actually submitted or did they take chances?
ABE ORDOVER: Some of them took real chances. If you like Blake Shore is a marvelous bird photographer and he specializes in exactly what we on from him in the birds indigenous to the county. And they are magnificent. Some people really were doing things they had done before. So for them I think it was very challenging and I think they're very nervous about the opening on Saturday, but how their colleagues are going to take what they see, some of them said that Alexander [Lesko] said to me this is not the kind of work I ordinarily do and I hope it's going to work out. Of course I've seen the work, the work is fine it will work out just beautifully. There is Donna Constantino who teaches at Palomar. Her black and white work which she hung is exactly what I would expect from her and the quality is very high. Will Gibson who teaches at UCSD and Palomar has tried some new processes for the show it seems from when I looked very successful in what he had done.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the descriptions of this exhibit as you say as the grand opening is Saturday, it says the photographs are, let me quote, it's a refreshingly different set of values from the mainstream art fair. What do you think makes these photographs different?
ABE ORDOVER: Well I'm not sure I entirely agree with that other than the quality. You're several steps above what you would see in the ordinary workfare.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Maybe that's what it is.
ABE ORDOVER: I think it's mostly that. These are very talented people.many of them who have been shooting all their lives. These are the people who judge the art fairs.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see
ABE ORDOVER: Literally some of them were picked Ron Elmar, Will Gibson, these are people who sit on the boards and judge the county fair art exhibits and some of the street exhibits. These are the teachers at Palomar and elsewhere. So you are going to see if they cut above. And some of the photography you're going to see our 3 cups above what you would ordinarily see. But remember we are grouping this, we've asked them to group this in terms of subject matter some of which as you indicated before, may make them a little uncomfortable. So what you're going to walk through and see if you go to the museum is something different from what you'd see at an art fair.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me, the exhibit is called the ecosystems of San Diego County and looking at that I was wondering, did anyone suggest like a snazzier name? Maybe like Earth, wind, water or something like that?
ABE ORDOVER: No. Why would we do that? Like I said we've done probably 25 exhibits a gallery. And yes, we fall victim to that kind of wordsmithing and passion. I didn't think that was appropriate for this exhibit. The purpose of the exhibit was to show the diversity of where we live. And so that's where the name came from.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay now what would you like to see people take away from this exhibit?
ABE ORDOVER: This exhibit, I think like all of the ones we do over there, it gives the visitor an opportunity to see really good photography on a wall rather than just in a magazine. So they can stand in front of it, they can discuss it, they can absorb it, they can fight about it, they can grade it themselves and believe me they do it every exhibit I'm sure they will hear. They But, some people look and say what is that, I don't understand that. So I think it should be exciting for the visitor. It's very versatile. He or she are going to see a lot of things they haven't seen before right here in their own County. And some that they have seen but perhaps with a different eye. But the opportunity for all the visitors over the four months or so that the show is going to be up to kind of stand there and absorb it is a very different experience than most of us ordinarily get.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know the opening reception for the ecosystems of San Diego County photography exhibit is this Sunday from 2 to 4 PM in the San Diego natural history Museum and it is free of charge. The exhibit remains on view until May 4th and I've been speaking with the curator of the exhibit photographer, Abe Ordover. Thank you so much for coming in and explaining this to us.
ABE ORDOVER: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: be sure to watch KPBS evening edition at 5 PM and again at 6:30. That's tonight at KPBS television and join us again tomorrow for discussions on Midday Edition on KPBS FM. I am Maureen Cavanaugh and thanks for listening.