Home Magazine MeetMe#35 | Photo LA 2020/Part. II

In this second partnership with PHOTO LA, we developed a new interview with the director Claudia James Bartlett. In this edition, in which Bartlett is director of the fair, things changed due to the global pandemic that affected us all. However, PHOTO L.A. decided not to stop, and, instead, to move on with a fresh, funny and well-curated online Program: Virtual Collect + Connect Photo LA.

Read more about Photo LA on our MeetMe#27!

A conversation with Claudia James Barlett.


Itamar Freed Starry Night, 2017, Inkjet print on archival paper, 120 x 180 cm V Contemporary.


Dear Claudia, here we are for a short conversation. Last year you told our public about the latest news and your new role in PHOTO L.A. This year you had a big obstacle to overcome due to the global pandemic. However, you promptly reacted by initiating a new and interesting virtual fair, with different programs. How was Virtual Collect + Connect PHOTO LA born?

First I want to thank you for this opportunity to reach your audience. Thank you! Lucky for us, photo L.A. is a nimble organization that can act quickly. After our venue insurance notified us that they wouldn’t offer pandemic insurance, we did what any great artist would do. We pivoted and found a creative solution: The Virtual Photo Fair. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon the Whova app, which provided a turnkey platform to engage with attendees and allow them to interact with others in the community. Not a passive experience, but an active one. These deeper connections are precisely what our photo l.a. and larger photography and art community have been yearning for. Our pared-down 3D rooms are simple and easy to navigate, thanks to our Webmaster, Tino. We’re thrilled to partner with Zoom to present exceptional programing accessible from around the world. We are creating a short video instructing how to use the technology, Whova app, and 3D rooms. We’ve also enlisted Marina, Manger of VIP Relations to work with VIPs so that they feel comfortable during amidst this new digital landscape.

What are the new chances and possibilities for both Collectors and the Galleries you are working with?

Undoubtedly, it’s a change. But if our community of artists and photographers know anything, there’s power in change. We have over 50 galleries signed on thus far who will present 3D booths.  We also have at least five museums who will be participating.  Plus, photo l.a. will be presenting 12 program pieces over the weekend of June 27th and 28th.  We have had tremendous response. The selection of exhibitors is very international. Because galleries do not have shipping and travel expenses, they are able to join us in this experience and offer incredible work and expand their audience. Using the Whova app our attendees will be able to interact with each other, network and enjoy the 3D booths, installations and programing via zoom, all from the comfort of their home. During this difficult time of COVID-19, this is a rallying cry to the galleries, private dealers and photographers/artists they represent, collectors, museums, curators and everyone who is interested in photography and art to come together and celebrate. But most importantly support our community.


Barbara Kasten Construct NYC 17, 1984 Cibachrome print, 30 x 40 inch, Courtesy of Scott Nichols Gallery


Megan Stroech BURGERVERSE, 015, Digital collage, 16 x 20 inch, bird  Richard Gallery.


Modern Rocks Fay Dunaway, Lambda CType print, Courtesy of Modern Rocks Gallery.


I love the idea that you decided to use Zoom as a medium. Many virtual projects that are proliferating in the art system seem to have a big void because there is no interaction among people. However, you decided to maintain the relationship between people. Is it right? 
I agree it is very important to maintain that relationship.  We wanted to mirror the fair experience.  One of the most important parts of that experience is interaction.  And though that interaction discovery.  That is what sold me on using the Whova app. It gives exhibitors and attendees the tools to connect with one another.  My hope is that everyone will be inspired, creative and use all the features the app has to offer.   Zoom will also be a huge factor in that experience. Each of our programs will use the zoom platform.  The audience can participate in live Q & A at the end of each program.   I should also mention we are in PSTime. So, we plan to tape the programing and replay it in different time zones. 


Roger Schall, the kiss of liberation from Paris May 8th 1945, Courtesy of Argenic.


Do you think that this new project you are developing will be understood by your audience? As well, do you believe that, due to the introduction of this smart ideas and the quality of your galleries, the audience could increase?  

My hope is that it will be understood. When something is new you are always taking a risk.  But I believe it is a risk worth taking. The technical aspect is the part we must watch carefully.  A large part of our audience may not feel comfortable with it. We are working hard to address those issues to help our audience enjoy this new realty. My gut feeling is that our audience is yearning for something during these difficult times and that they will be willing to try something new. And…. yes, this could expand our audience. Our fingers will be crossed!  The online and social media aspect could work in our favor. 

On your new project presentation there is the welcome sentence: “We’ve reimagined the traditional fair space to digitally connect galleries and private dealers, collectors, photographers and enthusiasts”. We really hope that these actors will resist and, also, increase more and more. Do you have any suggestions for younger fairs and collectors, that now are afraid to show new projects?  

Thank you. Someone once famously said, “Art makes suffering more tolerable”. It couldn’t be more relevant than in the trying times we find ourselves in. While it may be an old trope, I truly believe in the healing qualities of art. Some might say it's non- essential. But I’m not entirely sure I would want to exist in a world diluted of soul. I’ve been profoundly inspired by our community of creatives – particularly in the photography and art realm. Simply put, art is what’s gotten us through. As we transition into a post-COVID landscape, my feeling is what choice do we have?  We must not give into fear. We must create and move forward.

Cover images: John and Yoko by Barrie Wentzell, Signed limited edition 11 x14 inch silver gelatin print, Courtesy by Modern Rocks.

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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