Photographer Vera Lutter Documents the Museum's Works and Transformation
A solo exhibition, three years in the making, that features the work of Vera Lutter (MFA 1995 Photography and Related Media) was slated to open this past spring at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in California, before the museum shut down due to the outbreak of COVID-19. “Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera” features 44 large-scale images of LACMA’s holdings, galleries and campus grounds, all made with Lutter’s signature camera obscura technique. (You can currently view installation images of the exhibition and see a video about the artist's process on the museum's website.)
One of photography’s oldest technologies, a camera obscura, also known as a pinhole camera, is a box of any size made light-tight with the exception of a tiny aperture. Images are made directly onto photo-sensitive paper, which is exposed over long periods of time to the low levels of light that are projected via this opening. Lutter, who began working with pinhole cameras while at SVA, has used them to photograph Egyptian pyramids, trees in Manhattan’s Central Park, shipping yards and airfields, often creating large-scale images with custom-built cameras that are the size of a small room.
Lutter first conceived of the LACMA project as an opportunity to make images of select paintings in the museum, but it also captures the institution at the edge of a great change. This year, LACMA began an ambitious renovation that will ultimately see four of its campus’ buildings razed and a new, single building for its permanent collection constructed in their place.
A version of this article appears in the spring/summer 2020 edition of the Visual Arts Journal.