Life in Juxtaposition

I caught a 6 a.m. flight from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California on April 19. From the City of Roses, I arrived in the City of Angels just a little after 8 a.m. From LAX, I caught a Lyft ride across town to Annenberg Space for Photography where I had an appointment with someone who is an idol to me and others who revere the power of the image: Anne Wilkes Tucker, a celebrated photography curator who was named “America’s Curator” by Time Magazine.

At the beautiful Annenberg Space located on the Avenue of the Stars near Beverly Hills, Anne took me on a tour of the stunning new exhibition she began curating in 2015: Not an Ostrich and other Images from America’s Library. The show features 440 images shot over the course of three centuries, many rare and never before seen, that she carefully excavated from the Library’s deep vaults that contain about 14 million images.

When I told Anne and Beverly Brannan, a 47-year Library of Congress veteran, that meeting them in person was like having a chat with The Queen and the Pope, Anne said, “Oh, come on. I’m just Anne and you’re just Gina.”

Take a look at my exhibition review in LensCulture here:

Rediscovering America with Anne Wilkes Tucker – Review by Gina Williams | LensCulture

In one corner of the black and white image, shot by an unknown photographer near Washington, D.C. in 1920, a hooded Klu Klux Klansman looks towards the camera. In the center, men in dark suits-initiates to the group-kneel before a crowd of Klansmen and a blazing cross.

The next day, I had a ticket to see the L.A. Dodgers play the Washington Nationals. My love of ball park hot dogs and dwindling cash gave me the idea to hop on the bus to save money. I use public transportation all of the world, but that ride from my hotel near the airport through South Central L.A. was different. I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, but I guess the most honest thing I can say is that I felt way out of my element — I was traveling alone, hadn’t been to L.A. in many, many years & felt a little scared. But I’m glad I did it. After meeting with Anne in the high-tech Annenberg Center and talking about images, juxtaposition, relevancy, time and the importance of visual literacy, that ride through the crumbling belly of Los Angeles took on a new meaning. At the end of the bus line, I walked about four miles up the hill to Dodger Stadium. Unlike Portland, nobody else was walking. I saw two guys on bicycles. Otherwise, it was as if every other living person was stuck in traffic on the freeway. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Birds were singing. The air felt fresh and clean. But most homes had bars on the windows. And I didn’t see people out in their yards. Again, I had an eerie feeling of being out of place right here in America.

Not an Ostrich continues into September. I highly recommend a visit. Here are some additional related events to consider as well:

Special Programming & Panels. The Annenberg Space for Photography curated a series of unique events and speakers to bring visitors closer to the Not an Ostrich exhibit and the photographers who have captured our American history. A full list of events and programming can be found here. Highlights include:

WOMEN IN THE FIELD: FEMALE PHOTOJOURNALISTS – Featuring Isadora Kosofsky, Darcy Padilla, and Renée C. Byer (5/5)

PHOTOGRAPHING THE PRESIDENT – Featuring Sharon Farmer, Eric Draper, and Lawrence Jackson, moderated by Jamelle Bouie (6/2)

IRIS NIGHTS: FROM BEHIND CLOSED DOORS TO #METOO – A Conversation with Donna Ferrato and Nona Willis Aronowitz (7/26)

TELLING BORDER STORIES – Featuring Ceci Bastida, Ernesto Yerena Montejano, Adriana Monsalve, moderated by Melissa del Bosque (7/28)

StoryCorps PartnershipStoryCorps an organization whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. Visitors to Not an Ostrich will be invited to share their own stories by recording meaningful conversations in pairs to be preserved on the app. On June 22-23, the StoryCorps team will be interviewing exhibit visitors and archiving the conversations to be part of the Library of Congress.

Little Free Library Partnership. Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. During the exhibit run, the Annenberg Space for Photography will be working to bring Little Free Libraries to communities in and around Los Angeles.

Documentary about the LOC. Arclight Productions and the Annenberg Space for Photography have produced a documentary about the history and importance of the Library of Congress which will be screened continuously in the exhibition’s Digital Gallery. Produced as an inspiring companion to the exhibit, the 25 minute film provides cultural and historical context to the images on display, fostering a conversation about the spirit of the nation, its origins, evolution and what it means to be American.

Speakers include Carol M. Highsmith (photographer), Danny Lyon (photographer), Will Wilson (photographer), N. Scott Momaday (first Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature), Camilo José Vergara (photographer), Donna Ferrato (photographer), Tom Brokaw (journalist/author), Dr. Carla Hayden (Librarian of Congress), Beverly Brannan (LOC photography curator), Mark Sweeney (Deputy Librarian) Gregg Harper (Congressman and Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Library), George Will (author/commentator), Cokie Roberts (author/journalist), Sharon Farmer (photographer and former WH photographer),David Rubenstein (chairman of LOC James Madison Council), Earl Blumenauer (Congressman and Co-Chair of LOC Caucus), John Lewis (Congressman and Civil Rights Leader), Henry Lewis Gates Jr. (historian/professor).


Featured image: Stanley Kubrick. Bodybuilder Gene Jantzen with wife Pat and 11-month-old son Kent, 1947. (From the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

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