SPOTLIGHT: Center for Photographic Art
A Different Lens
Center for Photographic Art tries to bridge old and new, local and global in its exhibitions.
By Parker Seibold
In the early 1990s, Photoshop was still new to the world of photography and Ann Jastrab would spend hours working on a digital file to get it just right. There were no layers, no undo buttons, if she screwed up she either had to deal with it or start over. Jastrab knew rapid changes in the way photos were processed digitally was coming.
It was the thought of coming back to this new program 20 years in the future and seeing how much it had changed that sparked her interest in historic photographic processes. Now, as executive director at the Center for Photographic Art, with a master’s degree in photography focusing on historical processes, and a background as a photography teacher, she’s hoping to bridge the gap between historical and contemporary photography.
“How do you link the present and the past in a way that’s not going to alienate [people]?” Jastrab says. “Carmel is the birthplace of West Coast
photography. I want to bridge that historic gap.”
The CPA is a nonprofit gallery, free to the public, that hosts exhibitions and a lecture series featuring leaders in the field, and itself has historic ties to the evolution of modern photography. CPA took over the space that was previously occupied by the Friends of Photography, a nonprofit created by iconic photographers Ansel Adams, Cole Weston and Wynn Bullock in 1967, located in the Sunset Center in Carmel. CPA is the second-oldest members photo gallery in the country.
By hosting exhibitions filled with work created by a blend of contemporary and historical processes, Jastrab thinks she can accomplish her goal of educating people about the past, present and future of the photographic arts. Their last show, “Winter Blues, Contemporary Cyanotypes” (which ended up being its longest-running, because of the pandemic), featured 10 contemporary artists using a process that originated in the 1840s.
As Jastrab and the programming committee look for exhibitions to bring in, they try to strike a balance of supporting local artists and bringing in artists from all over the world to bring different perspectives to an affluent part of the world. “You don’t necessarily see much work from [places like] Kazakhstan in Carmel,” she adds.
Traditionally, the gallery hasn’t always been able to give exhibition awards, but with donations received through Monterey County Gives! they’re hoping to be able to start. Awards would allow them to offer more than just a space for artists to showcase their work by helping offset the cost of putting on a show.