Event Coverage: A Triumphant Return of Photo L.A.


The 27th Edition of Photo L.A. has come and gone, and I for one was thrilled to see its return. With great care, new owner Claudia James-Bartlett has brought back much of the glory that the fair had lost over the last several years. Taking 2018 off from the festivities, she successfully brought back a great many of the galleries that had been passing it by for far too long. In fact, there were over sixty local and international galleries this year, in total. In addition, Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA, has become its hosted venue, once again reminding us all how good the fair was when it was previously presented within the vintage hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. This report isn’t necessarily from an analog photography only perspective, but at the fair one could easily find gelatin silver, albumen, platinum, palladium, cyanotype, and collodion works prevalent throughout.

Speaking of vintage, the amount of vintage photography present at this year's event was staggering. With so many successful and long-standing galleries back in attendance it was clear that by and large, this is what collectors are looking for. There were still plenty of newer photographs present, and with the introduction of several galleries from China and Korea, diversity was clearly evident in the flavor of what was available to buyers and looki-loos alike. Of the many U.S. galleries attending the fair, it was quite wonderful to see the return of Stephen Cohen, Susan Spiritus, Kopeikin Gallery, Scott Nichols Gallery and Etherton Gallery, among many others. With so many world-class sellers there, the red dots and sold signs were more than abundant. Happily, I saw several top tier print sales occur at more than a few booths, rewarding the galleries for their insight into returning to Photo L.A. It will be very interesting to hear what the final tally in terms of sales is compared to previous incarnations of the show.

I do have to make mention of a couple of booths because they were a personal highlight to myself. First was a longtime stalwart of Photo L.A., Monroe Gallery of Photography. Sid Monroe always has prints that I want to purchase by the dozen, and this year was no exception. If not for that whole having to pay my mortgage thing hanging over my head, I would do just that in this booth alone. Sid is always friendly, gracious, and informative with his collection of 20th and 21st century photojournalism prints. In addition, he not only showed the work of Tony Vaccaro, but he also brought the man himself along for the ride to greet fans and buyers alike. A couple of booths down from Monroe was the brightly painted red booth of Peter Fetterman Gallery. This year the walls were covered with only prints from Finnish photographer, Pentti Sammallahti. Pentti is one of my top ten favorite photographers, so seeing a few dozen of his photographs on the walls simply made me drool with envy. Many galleries carry his prints, but this is the first time I have ever seen this many at a fair. Simply glorious.

No fair would be complete without showing some signature installations as well. This year at Photo L.A., Southern California photographer Jo Ann Callis was honored with her exhibit, Then and Now. Three other wonderful installations were also seen at the fair, all more than worthwhile for the time to view them - Making It Up: Photographs from the Michael and Jane Wilson Trust Collection, Point of View: Selections from Los Angeles Collections, and the competition winners exhibition from FOCUS Photo L.A.

All in all this year's event was a major shift back to the heyday that Photo L.A. had enjoyed in the past, and I found it to be a thoroughly satisfying endeavor to view the work and plan my own future purchases. As good as this year was, I can only believe that next and subsequent years will be even better, as long as those at the helm remain in charge. I’ve included many links where necessary, but I would suggest you bust out your favorite web browser, fire up Google, and fall down the rabbit hole of outstanding imagery when you’re done with this meager review. Also, remember that the whole point of the photo fair experience is not just to look, but to make available all of these works for the individual to purchase for their own enjoyment and/or investment. I know the prints can get pricey at times, but it’s the printed fine art photograph that is more than worth it, and something that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Start small and work your way up…you’ll be very happy you did. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the 28th Edition of Photo L.A. in 2020. Don’t forget to say hello!



Michael Kirchoff is an independent curator and juror for a number of organizations and galleries around the country, including Photolucida’s Critical Mass. In addition, he spent ten years (2006-2016) on the Board of the American Photographic Artists in Los Angeles (APA/LA), producing artist lectures, as well as business and inspirational events for the community. Currently, he is also Editor-in-Chief at Analog Forever Magazine, and has recently founded the online photographer interview website, Catalyst: Interviews. Previously, Michael spent over four years as Editor at BLUR Magazine. Connect with Michael Kirchoff on his Website and on Instagram!