Moments in time

By Lucia Viti

A collection of photographs, years in the making

“Photography was brought into being by a desire to make pictures.”—Beaumont Newhall

Curated by Deborah Klochko, executive director and chief curator of MOPA, the exhibition segments Bank of America’s Art in Our Communities, a photographic expose designed to inspire audiences worldwide.

The program, established in 2009, offers museums and nonprofit galleries public and free exhibitions. More than 130 showings have been displayed since the onset of this unique program.

“Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs” literally took years to come to life.

“Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs” took years to come to life. (Photos by Lucia Viti)

In 1967, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall were hired by Samuel William Sax, president of the Exchange National Bank of Chicago, to assemble America’s first historic photographic exhibition. At the time, investing in fine art was common for banking institutions. Sax, a seasoned photographic collector, was convinced that photography was fine art and “worthy of collecting.” Work was amassed from the Museum of Modern Art, The George Eastman House and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bank of America, current owners of the collection, approached San Diego’s MOPA to exhibit an assortment of the celebrated compilation. San Diego embraced the idea with open arms.

“Arts enriches our communities, celebrates the past and inspires our future,” said Rick Bregman, San Diego market president for Bank of America. “We’re proud to partner with the Museum of Photographic Arts by lending pieces from our Bank of America collection for the benefit of all visitors. By sharing these intriguing photographic works, we hope to foster great learning and inspiration.”

Trailblazing photography icons, dating back to the 1800s, reign among the works on display.

“‘A Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs’ is not only a fabulous exhibition for MOPA — the collection represents the greatest hits of the best-known photographers and their iconic images,” said Klochko.

The exhibition is divided into three sections. “History” opens the door to understanding “what goes on in photography.” William Henry Fox Talbot, credited as one of the inventors of photography, dates photos from 1843. Julie Margaret Cameron, one of America’s first female photographers, is featured along with Lewis Wickes Hine’s immigrants entering Ellis Island and child laborers in Chicago and Pennsylvania. Timothy Sullivan’s photographs of the West give way to Edward Steichen’s New York portraits.

“Chicago” follows suit, sharing the exemplar as well as the eclectic. Aaron Siskind, Arthur Siegel, Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh are also among the legends.

“A Collection of Photographs” finalizes the breathtaking, historical assortment, scanning the likes of Ansel Adams and Helen Levitt’s New York circa 1945. Beaumont Newhall’s work stretches between 1946 and 1970. Elliot Porter adds modern color as Man Ray exercises abstracts in black and white. Pirkle Jones highlights San Francisco while Edward Weston covers the 1920s and ’30s.

The collection represents the greatest hits of the best-known photographers and their iconic images

“While it’s wonderful to see the works in publication and online, it’s not the same as experiencing the works in person,” said Klochko. “It’s exciting to be surrounded by photographic art such as the beautiful landscapes of Ansel Adams and the amazing work of Minor White. People will recognize names within the collection as it brings history alive in multiple ways.”

Sporting a master’s of fine arts in photography from the SUNY, Buffalo, New York, and a “strong background in museum education,” Klochko described her 12-year tenure at MOPA as the perfect role.

“My background in museum education works to promote what we do,” she said. “Learning becomes visual at MOPA. Our programs, exhibitions and activities encourage creativity and understanding of the history and power of the visual image.”

Klochko noted that MOPA is “pay-what-you-wish admission. “Anyone can engage in the exhibition whether or not you choose to pay,” she said.

Touted as one of only three independent museums in America dedicated to a lens-based medium, MOPA, located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park, offers a calendar of “relevant, thought-provoking and engaging exhibitions, film festivals and lifespan-learning opportunities.”

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, MOPA addresses cultural, historical and social subjects through its photographic exhibitions and educational programs.

“Photography’s not a dying art,” explained Klochko. “Photography is at the forefront of contemporary art. As the visual currency of our time, photography is more energized and robust than it’s ever been. ‘Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs’ shows the rich diversity and range of what the medium is capable of. From child labor to photograms to the powerful work of Barbara Morgan’s dancers.”

Dedicated to “sharing and exploring the universal language of photography,” MOPA serves more than 100,000 visitors annually through its “presentation, collection, and preservation of photography, film, and video.”

San Diego’s MOPA houses historical and contemporary photographic works and photojournalism materials and documents related to the medium’s history. The Edmund L. & Nancy K. Dubois Library, located in MOPA, showcases more than 20,000 photographic artifacts including 8,500 photographs from over 700 artists as well as monographs, magazines, encyclopedias, and exhibition catalogs.

The exhibition is funded by Bank of America, the city of San Diego, the Gardner Bilingual Fund, and the Massey Charitable Trust. “Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs” runs through Sept. 23. A coffee table book of the presentation is also available.

— Luci Viti can be reached at

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