Street photography collectives. After working with Street Photography Magazine for over five years, I’ve come across my share. But this one – Los Angeles Street Collective – stood out as different in my mind. I combed the website, exploring the galleries of each of the 17 current members. The website was straightforward – besides the galleries, there was a piece about Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP), a link to LACP street photography workshops and this brief description:
“The Los Angeles Street Collective is a group of photographers dedicated to shooting on the streets of Los Angeles. The members of this group consist of advanced street shooters who met in the “Street Shooting Program” launched in 2010, at the Los Angeles Center of Photography. We come together to explore the streets, practice our craft, and to inspire and challenge one another. Our aim is to promote street photography while sharing our images with other fellow street photographers from around the world.“
But the photos, the images, they were superb – human element, a documentary flare, decisive moment, they had it all.
Every single member had their own style and perspective, that was clear. At the same time, there was a harmony to the galleries. This was the intriguing part. I found myself asking, how did this come about? How do you create a collective that features only extremely talented photographers, who each see a city as individuals and yet, as a group? Turns out the keeper of that secret was Julia Dean.
The Woman Behind LACP
Truth be told, long before I spoke with her, Julia and LACP were on our radar. Bob and I both were highly impressed by the collective, LACP, Julia’s personal work and STREET WEEK in LA – an annual street photography event put on by the center. With so much happening out there in LA, I had a lot of questions. So many in fact, that I wasn’t sure where to start. I decided to do some research, arm myself with just a few basic questions and see where it led. After exchanging a few emails, Julia and I sat down to chat about her work with LACP and the LA Street Collective and quite a story unfolded.
From the very beginning, it was clear that Julia was passionate about two things: photography and teaching. Julia explained, “Photography has always been a part of my life. It can be so much for so many people in so many different ways and that’s what I think I love about it the most. Photography has always been a part of my life and I’ve always wanted to share it.”
So, on January 1, 1999, Julia opened “Julia Dean Photo Workshops” (JDPW). For the first year, Julia was the sole teacher. Fast forward twenty years and those initial classes have evolved into what is today the Los Angeles Center of Photography – a nonprofit center that holds 150 classes each year taught by about 100 different teachers. Julia admits she never imagined that from such small beginnings an important community center would develop.
The truth is, it wasn’t always easy to teach and run a business – a dilemma many photographers can relate to. Julia was working 100 hours a week teaching, running the business and still struggling to get by. The solution? Keep putting in the hours. And expand. The center grew to include more courses, more teachers and while this didn’t eliminate the challenges related to running a business and teaching full time, it did keep the center going. Julia describes all 20 years as a love affair that was a lot of work, but worth it. Things became easier once she brought on Brandon Gannon in 2006. Though she didn’t know it at the time, hiring Brandon was her single smartest business move, she says. Handing off the day-to-day operations to him was her second smartest move. Together, they have been a dedicated team on a mission, and the rest is history. But where did the collective come in?
From Class to Collective
With the creation of JDPW and later LACP, Julia’s full focus was on building a school. This changed Julia’s own photographic work. She says, “Once I started the school, I had to change what I did as a photographer. I was no longer a socially concerned photographer going to various places around the world to do concerned stories. I was in LA and I finally found my way when I started shooting on the streets of downtown LA. That’s when I started the street program.”
The first program took place in 2010 and five students attended. “Now,” Julia says, “We have a street photography program that we’re very excited about. It includes two different six-month classes, as well as week-long, one-day and weekend workshops taught by accomplished street photographers from Los Angeles and around the world. LACP hosts an event in February called STREET WEEK in LA which includes speakers, workshops, an exhibition competition, panel discussions and more.”
In its early days, the two main street photography classes were called Street I and Street II. Today, the beginner class is called “On the Streets in LA.” Julia reports that there’s always a full house for this course and adds, “I’m always amazed by the interest in street photography, because it isn’t easy. My background is photojournalism and documentary photography, so by the time I hit the streets of LA, it was second nature to me because I’d been shooting on the streets around the world for years. But these folks don’t necessarily have a photojournalistic background and chances are they’ve never been on the street with a camera. I admire them because it takes guts to hit the streets and get close to people. I can guarantee that shooting on the street will make anyone a better photographer.” Students who take the course get a lot of instruction on everything from ethics and laws to composition and shooting techniques.
As for the advanced level course, Julia says, “It was just advanced street photography to begin with, but eventually we turned the advanced class into a collective. Now you have to apply to be a member and it’s all about taking a serious group of street photographers who love getting together, feeling camaraderie, and getting their work critiqued. We also love the idea of documenting our city.” What was Street II now has a more appropriate name: “Los Angeles Street Collective” The collective gathers twice a month to shoot and once a month for critiques and a lecture.
At the end of every six month “course” each member must complete a personal project – either a book or a slideshow, which helps the students continue to grow and progress as photographers. That was the secret to the talent and harmony of this collective. Not only are they a group of seasoned street photographers, they continue to grow, work and learn together on a regular basis. Of course, there are perks to joining the collective, to mention a few: free entry to street contests, special guest speakers, featured galleries on the collective’s website. But the most serious endeavor for the group is becoming better street photographers and documenting their city – something they’ve been doing for nearly a decade. Here’s what Julia and a few of her “street pals” have to say about street photography and being a member the collective:
“On the streets I am always looking to capture the in-between pause, the momentary quiet before it disappears and is forever gone.” – Gail Just
“The idea of capturing an image that no one else will get, solely because that moment happens only in that instant, on that day, on that street, in front of you, is simply exhilarating.” – Julia Dean
“The goal of the Los Angeles Street Collective is twofold; the first is to nurture a dynamic and growing family of photographers committed to the art of street photography. We constantly strive to nourish, support and challenge each other by relying on each one to show up on the streets rain or shine, by expecting that we tightly edit and present our work to the team, and by inspiring each other with our value for the art form.
The second goal of the collective is to capture the spirit of the city of Los Angeles at this time of history. We are all fascinated by this robust metropolis that we’re choosing to call home, a sprawling habitat where diverse worlds clash and merge in complex ways. With our work we seek to capture from a collective perspective the shades, impressions and pulse of a pioneer city that constantly transforms itself and which seeks to claim a leading role at this time of crisis in our history.” – Thouly Dosios
“There is no better place for street photography devotees (than LACP). Julia Dean has a clear well defined vision, of what street photography is and should be, and is a great educator. Equally important, many of the photographer members, of the Street Program and Collective, are incredibly talented and their work is inspirational. During my time in the program I’ve watched several good photographers become amazing photographers.” – Andy House
“The goal of the collective is to document life in Los Angeles during this critical moment in our history. So much of our lives now is documented, but by bringing our artistic eyes to work, we feel we can achieve a record that is both accurate and beautiful.” – Rob Krauss
A New Generation of Street Photographers
Six years ago, LACP went nonprofit. The center wanted to offer photography courses to underserved kids in LA and that dream is now coming true. In 2015 and 2016, Julia volunteered once a week at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights with the goal of developing a program for an after-school class and implement it in as many Boys & Girls Clubs as possible. As of 2019, the program Julia developed is being taught in 10 Boys & Girls Clubs around LA.
As a culmination of this year’s work with the kids, a special exhibition featuring their images will be held at the dnj Gallery in Santa Monica, July 13 – August 3. A second show is planned for early 2020. Here’s a few of their street shots, get ready to be impressed:
LACP has seen tremendous results with the Boys & Girls Clubs in their area, but that is just one of the many ways they participate in community outreach programs in LA to share their passion for photography.
This year, on April 13 LACP hosted a particularly important event, one that Julia describes as “a spectacular night that was the highlight of the past 20 years.” As a nonprofit organization, LACP must raise funds in order to add classes, projects, extra space, to continue to create new opportunities for photographers, and to reach any number of other goals. With this in mind, the center set out to host a fund raising event in honor of Art Streiber – one of LA’s world renowned photographers. Five hundred people attended and the event was a super success. It far exceeded Julia’s expectations and will help to fund a number of future projects for the center. Julia says, “it was a height we’d never reached, with much thanks to Art Streiber, and it felt monumental. Now we’ve got help to cement the legacy of the Los Angeles Center of Photography.”
When we concluded the interview, I took a moment to reflect on all the hard work and dedication she’s given to making the center a success. For years, Julia has put teaching ahead of her personal photographic work in this endeavor and it’s been worth every effort. LACP is really setting the standard for photographic education on a community level. Our conversation made me wish every major city had a similar center where people could go to learn about and enjoy all things photography related! And it seems LACP is just getting started. There are great things on the horizon for the center and I personally look forward to seeing what’s next.
To learn more about Julia, LACP and the LA Street Collective, please visit:
And keep an eye out for Julia in the upcoming August issue of SPM, she’s our featured photographer!
Top image of Julia on her scooter ©Andy House, member of the LA Street Collective.