The Annenberg Space for Photography

Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA

When we relaunched Westcoaster a few years ago, we outlined some ambitious content goals to expand our coverage beyond the theme parks on which we used to focus. But truth be told, most of that set upon interests that I had beyond roller coasters and such, that I wanted to document photographically and bring attention to, in hopes of showcasing the wide variety of things to do and places to see out there. On the down side, having such eclectic interests meant that focusing content could be a challenge—even down to defining exactly what this new Westcoaster was.

Well, my epiphany came last year, when I figured out a way to distill the site’s mission statement into something relatively concise: Westcoaster is an attractions blog that highlights themed entertainment and places of interest that touch upon arts and culture, with a little bit of travel content thrown in on the side. And so, while theme park updates continue to be our bread and butter, and our Halloween season coverage has grown pretty robust as well, the over-arching thesis allows the site to incorporate other intriguing features, such as the occasional music festival, museum experience, or special event that piques ours (and hopefully your) fancy.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is a cozy but content-rich space dedicated to photography and social issues.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is a cozy but content-rich space dedicated to photography and social issues.

So on that note, today, I’d like to dive into what has really become my favorite museum in Southern California: The Annenberg Space for Photography. This is a small but meaningful photography museum located in the Century City area of Los Angeles, over on the West Side. It’s actually a place that we touched upon a few years ago when we reported on the now-defunct KCRW Sound in Focus concert series, covering a show by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

The Contact High exhibit features many famous images of storied rap artists, like this one of Tupac Shakur.

The Contact High exhibit features many famous images of storied rap artists, like this one of Tupac Shakur.

Although there are many museums in the L.A. area that have photography exhibits and components, The Annenberg Space for Photography was the first such space to be devoted solely to the photographic medium. Opened ten years ago, this museum sets out to highlight cultural, social, environmental, and/or historical issues (or a combination thereof) through the powerful lens of photography. Over the years, the Annenberg Space has featured exhibits highlighting rising sea levels, refugees, the hidden side of Cuba, the evolution of life on Earth, the LGBTQ community, and more. And all of it has been for free—there is no admission fee to the Annenberg.

This rap and hip-hop re-enactment of the famous “A Great Day in Harlem” features dozens of legendary and influential rap musicians gathered at the same spot where 57 famous jazz musicians had posed for an  Esquire Magazine  photo over half a century prior.

This rap and hip-hop re-enactment of the famous “A Great Day in Harlem” features dozens of legendary and influential rap musicians gathered at the same spot where 57 famous jazz musicians had posed for an Esquire Magazine photo over half a century prior.

The museum carries a multi-media experience and frequently pairs the static photo gallery exhibits with a 20-25 minute short documentary on the subject at hand. A trip to the Annenberg Space for Photography—typically warranting about an hour and a half length—thus often proves to be a moving and inspiring one. People can debate and argue about these important, global-scale topics all they want. But few things are more effective than a viscerally impactful photo.

It’s this merging of social awareness and technical artistry that most attracts me to this museum. Each exhibit typically runs several months, and whether I think I will enjoy the content matter or not, I inevitably leave with a deeper appreciation of the subject at hand, along with a motivation to help better this world and highlight and fight for issues of concern in whichever way I can. At the very least, the awareness to the various topics—be they racial, ecological, religious, political, musical, or other—plays a powerful role in shaping how the next generation can respond to this world’s challenges.

Salt-N-Pepa in their unmistakable 90s rap fashion was one of many visual icons of hip hop.

Salt-N-Pepa in their unmistakable 90s rap fashion was one of many visual icons of hip hop.

The current exhibit is Contact High: A Visual History of HIp-Hop. It chronicles the rise of rap and hip-hop through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, as it emerged from an underground genre to a mainstream music and life culture that defined an entire generation and provided wholesale representation. All the while, the photographers who captured its rhythm and its style gave its pioneers and leaders the power to influence thousands—nay, millions—around the country. The iconic photographs related to hip-hop’s greatest artists provide the insight to how this phenomenon affected political, cultural, and social movements both within the United States and ultimately around the world.

The iconic  Rap Pages  cover of Notorious B.i.G.

The iconic Rap Pages cover of Notorious B.i.G.

Admittedly, I’m not even a big rap and hip-hop fan, though I appreciate conscious rap and the positive messages it tries to convey. And yet, in testament to the effectiveness of this and many other similarly resounding exhibits at the Annenberg Space for Photography, I left with a newfound acknowledgement of the importance that this still-relatively-new music genre has played on our cultural identities. And I gained a respect for the photographers who documented the movement and played a part in catalyzing its proliferation.

Contact High runs now through Sunday, August 18. Afterwards, following a one month break to takedown and new installation, another exhibit called W|ALL: Defend, Divide, and the Divine will run at the Annenberg through early next year. As mentioned, the museum itself is always free, though there is a parking fee of $1.50 with validation on the weekends (all day), or on weekdays after 4:30. Parking for guests coming before 4:30 on Wednesdays through Fridays is currently $4.50 for three hours—definitely enough time to take in the exhibit. The Annenberg Space for Photography also has a satellite gallery across the courtyard of the Century Park business tower complex called Skylight Studios. It, too, offers free admission.

If you’re a photographer or photography fan, this museum is a can’t-miss in Southern California. Though it is a smaller and more intimate space, it is every bit as enjoyable as its more famous museum brethren in the Los Angeles area. Go check out the Annenberg Space for Photography this weekend! You’ll most certainly find it inspiring!

The next exhibit after Contact High.

The next exhibit after Contact High.


THE ANNENBERG SPACE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AT A GLANCE

  • Name: Annenberg Space for Photography

  • Address: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

  • Web Site: https://annenbergphotospace.org/

  • Admission: FREE

  • Hours: 11:00am - 6:00pm Wednesdays - Sundays, closed Mondays & Tuesdays

  • Metro Stop(s): N/A (Metro bus lines 4, 16, 28, 316, 704 and 72 have nearby stops)

 

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.