The Annenberg Space for Photography is a free museum in the Century City area of Los Angeles, California’s Westside. It showcases themed galleries of digital and print photography that rotate a few times per year as well as special programming that includes lectures, workshops, classes, and family-friendly events.
The space’s galleries are curated to highlight powerful photography, and these exhibits are beautifully presented via state-of-the-art, 4K digital technology as well as traditional prints by world-renowned photographers and emerging talents. The venue, an initiative of the Annenberg Foundation and its trustees, is the first solely photographic cultural destination in the Los Angeles area, and it creates a new paradigm in the world of photography.
In this post, we’ll offer info and tips for visiting the Annenberg Space for Photography. We’re also going to take a look at the current exhibit, the National Geographic Photo Ark by photographer Joel Sartore. Unfortunately, since I’ve been so slow to get this posted, the Photo Ark gallery will probably have ended its run by the time many of you read this, but it’s a good example of the kind of exhibits the Annenberg Space for Photography displays, and anyone who is in the Los Angeles area right now should really make every effort to see it!
Admission to all exhibits and public programming at the Annenberg Space for Photography is free. There are occasionally lectures and special events with a separate fee, but those are not things you’d randomly stumble upon while visiting.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., and is closed Monday and Tuesday. The museum is also closed all public holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day, Memorial Day, and so on.
As for parking, there’s a structure adjacent to the museum, and it’s accessible from Constellation Boulevard or Olympic Boulevard. Parking costs $4.50 for three hours with validation before 4:30 p.m. on weekdays; it’s a flat-rate $1.50 fee after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends. By Los Angeles standards, that’s not bad at all.
There’s also free street parking in residential areas of Century City that are a 5-10 minute walk from the Annenberg Space for Photography. Some of those spots are time-limited, require a permit, or have various limitations, so be mindful of restrictions printed on signs before parking–the “free” parking could end up costing much more than $4.50 if you’re not careful.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is fairly compact–I don’t think they even refer to it as a museum, so that’s something of a misnomer on our part. Most of the time, you’ll be able to finish the galleries at a moderate pace in around an hour.
However, you can still get your money’s worth out of that three hour parking with a walk over to the Westfield Century City Mall, lounging in the grassy park by the gallery, or having a meal in the area. CAA is in the adjacent office building, so you could also head over there to sign a record deal or what-have-you if you’re looking to become famous. (That’s how it works, right?)
The interior design of the Annenberg Space for Photography is absolutely stunning, and the presentation here is a big part of the appeal. The museum celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year, and still feels like it’s brand new. Museums in Los Angeles can take a beating, but this one looks pristine.
Annenberg Space for Photography’s interior design is said to be influenced by the mechanics of a camera and its lens. The central, circular digital gallery is contained within an square building, creating an architectural metaphor for a convex lens. The ceiling features a striking, iris-like design evoking the aperture blades of a lens.
While small, the museum packs a powerful punch and utilizes its space masterfully. In addition to Annenberg Space for Photography’s print and digital galleries, the rear portion of the building features a photography reading room and a workshop area that includes a residential-style kitchen for special programs.
Finally, the National Geographic Photo Ark by photographer Joel Sartore, which is what’s on display in the photos in this post. (See current and upcoming exhibits here.) Prior to visiting this exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, we had watched a segment about the Photo Ark on 60 Minutes.
In person, the photos are even more impactful and moving. Sartore’s passion is heartening, and his quest to photograph every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in order to motivate action through education is a noble one.
To be honest, when I first heard of the Photo Ark, I was dismissive. Photographers are generally snobby about capturing images of animals in captivity. It’s akin to hunting animals on a game preserve, except with (obviously) non-lethal results, or “shooting fish in a barrel” as the saying goes.
However, Sartore’s approach of photographing these animals as portraiture subjects is outside the box and the visual style is arresting. As a viewer, your attention is directed to every detail of the creature and even its personality; as such, the animals are viewed with even more empathetic eyes, if that’s possible.
The result is that the exhibit is at once emotionally moving, a strong call to action, and a depressing glimpse of some foregone conclusions of what the future holds. Earth’s collective fate has been obvious to anyone paying attention for the last decade, so I can’t say that the Photo Ark is coming about a decade too late, but it does feel that way. On the other hand, it could’ve been displayed a decade from now and would probably be met with that same reaction.
Overall, the Annenberg Space for Photography is a great option for a free thing to do in Los Angeles, California. Don’t let the compact size of the galleries scare you off; whereas other museums in L.A. are huge and can be intimidating, this is perfect for most attention spans. It’s ideal for the single-theme approach, and you should be able to better-absorb its substance and subtext without becoming overwhelmed. We consider the Annenberg Space for Photography to be a must-do, and highly recommend it in a 1-day Los Angeles Westside itinerary.
If you’re planning a trip, check out our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles or our California category of posts. For even more things to do, The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas is an exceptional resource, which is written by other locals. If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you visited the Annenberg Space for Photography? If so, what did you think of experience? Any additional tips to add that we didn’t cover? Would you do it again, or do you think it was a ‘one and done’? Were the galleries worth your time? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!