The Annenberg Space for Photography

Listen up all you photographers and photo enthusiasts! The Annenberg Foundation, a philanthropic private foundation that supports nonprofit institutions, just launched an exhibition space for photography in Century City on March 27, 2009. Located on the former site of the Schubert Theater, the Annenberg Space for Photography doubles as a photography holy ground and an eye opening preview of imaginative architecture and technology.

Occupying a 10,000 square foot facility, the Annenberg Space is nestled near the Creative Arts Agency (a.k.a. the "Death Star") offices at 2000 Century Park East. The gorgeous courtyards that surround the A.S.P make an ideal place for a picnic lunch, a cultural expedition, or an obnoxious battle between wind and flying napkins (since the C.A.A. provides a wind tunnel that blows across the Ave. of the Stars). But, with free admission to the space and validated self-parking, I really don't think the strongest of winds can damage a day at the Annenberg.

As you walk up the few stone steps that lead to the entrance of the space, one can not be fooled by first glances and apparent bleakness of the museum, especially when you compare it to the monstrous towers next door. Take a second look, for the museums design emulates a three dimensional metaphor for the camera, and includes a classic circle within a square that represents the way film scrolls with a camera. Even the seemingly dull colors of the exterior are supposed to emulate "the shades of gray that make up the palette of print photography." However, the metaphorical architecture doesn't stop with the exterior.

Guests experience a shock and awe factor when they step into the entrance of the museum where they are greeted by walls covered with iconic photography and floors made from recycled tires that remind one of camera grips. It seems only appropriate then, that the first photographs you encounter are those of Julius Shulman, who capture the architecture and designs of Los Angeles. The pictures of Shulman seemed even more befitting when one encounters the combination of the curved walls that lead to the main room and the natural light penetrating the photographs, almost making you feel like you are walking inside an actual camera.

Aside from the exquisite visual ergonomics of the building, the debut exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, "L8s Ang3les," features eight photographers and three photo journalists from the Los Angeles Times. Among the photographers highlighted are Douglas Kirkland and his iconic celebrity portraits, Catherine Opie and her representation of the LGBT community, Carolyn Cole's exposé on the world's armed conflicts, and Lauren Greenfield's probe into the darker side of youth culture. Other photographers include John Baldessari, Greg Gorman, Julius Shulman, Tim Street-Porter, and photo journalists Lawrence K. Ho, Kirk D. McKoy, and Genaro Molina.

But what makes the Annenberg Space so unique is its commitment and focus on, "improving the human condition through improved communication by tying people through the power of images," said Annenberg's Communication Associate, Camille Lowry. By combining state of the art technology and evocative photography the A.S.P. offers the perfect place to witness the fusion of modernized photography presentations. Commenting on their digital gallery, Lowry said, "We obviously have the traditional print gallery but the digital gallery is able to show thousands of images whereas if you go to a normal space they have about sixty or seventy prints."

Encompassed in the digital experience are the two 14 by 7 foot high definition video projectors overpowering the main walls featuring commentary from photographers and a behind the scenes look into their defining photos. The 20 minute show proved engaging, thought provoking and comfortable thanks to the ottomans sprawled around the room. But the intrigue didn't stop with the digital screens (which can also be found in the exhibits bathroom mirrors!!) and comfortable ottomans. Startlingly impressive are the two Microsoft SURFACE touch screen table tops given to the Annenberg by philanthropist, Bill Gates. The "tabletops" allow you to skim through the endless archives of photographs through your hands heat sensitive movements, enabling you to enlarge, minimize and swivel different photos (future plans will allow the public to even order prints from the touch screens). Welcome to the future of photography, folks!

Not only does the new exhibit grant the public a close-up look into iconic pictures, but it also marks a new heyday for photography since the A.S.P. now holds the title for first studio committed solely to photography. Commenting on this landmark, Lowry said, "We have fantastic photography in Los Angeles. The Getty has an amazing collection. LACMA has a great collection that we are supporting. I know that MOCA has shown photography there too. It's not that it doesn't exist in Los Angeles, but those places do other things as well. There is not one place in Los Angeles that is dedicated to photography, until now." In some respect, one can even say that the coalescence between photography and the public created at the International Center for Photography in New York, is what the Annenberg Space for Photography is doing in Los Angeles.

Going beyond expectations, the Annenberg also houses a gamut of activities and diverse space for public enjoyment. Equipped with a non-lending library, reading room, a fully functional kitchen that hosts special events, a conference room that hosts workshops and Thursday night lectures given by professional photographers and experts, the Annenberg takes their innovation to a whole different realm. This is definitely something you have to see with you own eyes. Even the art-averted (if there is such a thing), will do doubt be transformed by the Annenberg Space for Photography and what it has to offer.

Hours of Operation are Wednesday-Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Go with friends, family, or a hott date, or to merely celebrate the dynamics of photography this special month (April happens to be the Month of Photography in Los Angeles).