Under review: Deborah Klochko


Next up in our series Under review, where this year’s judges answer our quick-fire questions, is Deborah Klochko. Deborah has been the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, California, since 2006. She has taught, lectured and written extensively on photography and has curated more than 30 exhibitions throughout her career. 

Klochko is the Founder of Speaking of Light: Oral Histories of American Photographers. She is the author of Picturing Eden and co-authored both Moment of Seeing: Minor White and Create and Be Recognized: Photography on the Edge. Formerly the Director of The Friends of Photography, located at the Ansel Adams Center, she has also worked at the California Museum of Photography; the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; and the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Klochko received her Master of Arts in Teaching, Museum Education at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Visual Studies Workshop (SUNY) in Rochester, New York.

She sits in the hot seat to give you advice on entering this year’s Sony World Photography Awards. 

MOPA visitor looking at work showcased in Out of the Shadows: Contemporary Chinese Photography

Is there anything in particular that you hope to see during the Sony World Photography Award judging process?

What I’m hoping to see as a judge in this competition is work that excites me. I don’t want to have expectations of specific kinds of work. I’m looking forward to the adventure of seeing work from around the world. 

Do you have any advice for those applying their series (we ask for five to 10 images) to the Professional competition?

The best advice that I can offer for submitting work as a series is that it has to be as cohesive as possible. A series needs to work together to tell a bigger story. 

What was it that interested you to be on the judging panel for the Sony World Photography Awards Professional competition?

To be able to see photographs from around the world is something I’m really looking forward to. 

What do you feel you bring to the judging panel?

I feel there are a number of things I can bring, including decades of experience looking at work, interaction with artists, and enjoyment at discovering new and creative individuals who are making extraordinary work.

Deborah Klochko with youth artists at MOPA's Annual Juried Youth Exhibition 

You have a strong background in the history of American photography. Do you feel photographers from different parts of the world share an aesthetic?

My background in photography extends well beyond American photography. I have worked internationally with artists from around the world. MOPA has a Pacific Rim focus where we have looked at contemporary work from China, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and we will be visiting Korea soon, too.

Photography is a global medium today. Because of that, there are many approaches shared, but I think it’s the differences that make the medium and the field so interesting. To see various perspectives is what I find informative and engaging about photography today.

You have curated more than 30 exhibitions throughout your career. Is there one that is particularly memorable? If so, why?

In curating exhibitions, in some ways, it is hard to pick one single one that stands out more than others. I learn something from the exhibitions that I put together. Recently, some that I enjoyed a lot were Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography and Picturing Eden.

There are also a series of exhibitions that I have curated specifically with an education focus that combine art, science, history and technology. These exhibitions put photography in a much broader context with hands-on opportunities. They have included Illusion: The Magic of Motion and Hidden Worlds

Also at MOPA, we showcase works by youth artists from San Diego County and Tijuana through our Annual Juried Youth Exhibition, which is now going to be in its 16th year. 

Installation shot of the exhibition The Artist Speaks: Erica Deeman 

You are the Founder of Speaking of Light: Oral Histories of American Photographers, can you tell us a bit more about this?

It’s a project dear to my heart -- it’s on hold for the moment because we’re so busy with multiple projects at the museum. The idea is to create a repository of oral histories of photographers, eventually making them available to researchers. 

Tell us about your experience working in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. What was the most interesting thing you learned during your time there?

The most interesting thing I learned at the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress was how truly wonderful their collection of photography is. While they tended to think of it in terms of numbers, I thought of it as a window to the past. I was taken by the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection, a Washington D.C. based photographer who was an early woman in the photographic sector. She not only did studio portraits of the rich and famous, but also photographed at Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute and other historically Black colleges and universities.

 Deborah Klochko at the opening reception for Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography


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Darkest Nights, Brightest Stars: 15th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition: MOPA’s 15th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition uniquely combines imaginative artworks responding to two separate thematic calls for submissions: Growing Up and Space. Youth artists in K-12 throughout San Diego and Tijuana were invited to share their unique interpretations of these seemingly disparate themes through photography and video. Through their lenses, powerful voices and common threads emerged. Open May 2022.

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