- Text by Miss Rosen
- Photography by Protest for George Floyd in May 2020 by Ringo Chiu (main image)
In the mid-90s, native Nebraskan Julia Dean moved to L.A.’s fabled Venice Beach, setting up a new home in a loft shortly before her 40th birthday. “I had no job and only enough money for three months’ rent, but I also had 12 years of college teaching behind me,” says Dean.
Determined to contribute to the city’s art community, she went on to create the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP), a non-profit organisation that offers classes, portfolio reviews, talks, and discussions. After more than two decades as Executive Director of LACP, Dean embarked on her next venture, The L.A. Project – a collective of street, documentary, and news photographers chronicling contemporary city life.
“Throughout my career, my work has focused significantly – here and internationally – on underrepresented and local communities,” Dean says. “As a photojournalist and documentary photographer, I’ve always thought it my mission to cover these stories. As an educator, I’ve always sought to bring photographic education to where it might not be readily available.”
With The L.A. Project, Dean focuses on the ways in which local photographers are documenting the city at a dynamic and challenging time. looking to find new and innovative ways to share their work, she is launching Projecting L.A., a free, public event on 22 October, which features the work of 35 photographers projected onto a four-story building in Chinatown projected from a big parking lot turned open-air theatre.
The first annual event features work by photographers Dean has known and worked with for years, including Los Angeles Times photojournalists Francine Orr and Jason Armond, and 2021 Pulitzer Prize winner Ringo Chiu, who she first met 25 years ago when he enrolled in her photojournalism class at Santa Monica College.
Chiu’s blistering images of the California wildfires and Black Lives Matter protests are brilliantly complemented by the work of legendary photographer Estevan Oriol, who has been chronicling Los Angeles since the ‘90s. His photographs of East LA’s celebrated street culture have become an integral part of the city’s image, much like his contemporaries Oscar Contreras, Wednesday Aja, and Jamie Johnson, whose works are also included in the show.
“They were selected because of the great respect I hold for them, the diversity of their subjects, and because their work tells the real story of the street,” says Dean. “I hold my relationships dear.”
Putting together Projecting L.A. has been a true labor of love for the photographer and educator. Understanding that these images are an intrinsic part of both the city’s cultural fabric and its historic record, photographers will be donating a selection of their works from the show to the photo collection of Los Angeles Central Library.
Dean envisions the first edition of Projecting L.A. as an opportunity to bring people together in a vibrant celebration of the city that will educate and uplift the community through photography. As she puts it, “My personal mission as a photographer is to make us see.”