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Arts & Culture

Photography Exhibition Brings International Attention to San Diego

First Place Winner in the Art of Photography Show. "A Stranger 53 Years Old" by Benoit Paillé
First Place Winner in the Art of Photography Show. "A Stranger 53 Years Old" by Benoit Paillé

As many of you know, I love photography. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to sit and listen to Charlotte Cotton, the curator and head of photography at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, talk about where photographic art is at this particular juncture in history. She was in town for the opening of the Art of Photography Show, currently on view at the Lyceum Theater and for which she served as the sole judge. The show features 111 winning photographs chosen from a pool of 16,000 entries from around the world. Yup, that's right. She looked at 16,000 photographs! I enjoyed her talk so much, I immediately booked her on These Days. You can listen to the interview here.

I wanted to share some of the winning photographs with you. The first place prize was given to Benoit Paillé from Montréal, Canada. His photograph titled "A Stranger 53 Years Old" is just incredible (featured above). Paillé's subject lives in an apartment on his street, but they didn't know each other. Paillé approached him and asked if he could take his photograph. Paillé is used to making such requests of strangers - he's been photographing elderly strangers for some time. The man agreed and suggested they take the photograph in his own apartment. Once inside, the man, who'd recently lost his mother, took off his clothes and chose to sit in a child's chair for the image. Without knowing the backstory, the photograph conjures up feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. Once you know the story, the image becomes a powerful statement from someone (the stranger) who is suffering, but brave enough to share his grief.


The photo gallery to the left includes some of the other images in the show, but I encourage you to go see this free(!) exhibit of compelling photography. Cotton said that when you do such a broad call for submissions, you expect to get work from photographers at different stages of their practice. She noticed a common sense of wonder and even romanticism in much of the work, which must have been refreshing to her, coming from an institution like LACMA where she interacts with a lot of conceptual photographers and art students who tend to make work from a different mindset. I think you'll recognize the romanticism, but you'll also see wit and beauty and technical prowess.