American Spectator: Melodie McDaniel


Sunday Best 4 ©1995, Melodie McDaniel

For years, I’ve been a frequent visitor to Melodie McDaniel’s web site. Leafing through her personal photographs, rather like the way I’d sort through my shoebox of so-called collectibles as a child, often finding precious nuggets – gems of images worth treasuring.

I’d fallen in love with a series of photographs she called Film Noir, a grouping of images that struck me as unique. Shot in classic, black and white film, my overriding thought when looking at Film Noir’s African American subjects was of the abundance of dignity they possessed, a trait rare in the representation of blacks in this country. Or should I say lack of representation?  Whether dressed up for church service or lounging in yards with friends and children, or holding court at a local dance hall, a tremendous sense of pride seems to emanate from McDaniel’s subjects.

Doo Drop Inn, 1998 © Melodie McDaniel

When we began working together to form an exhibition at Spot Photo Works in Los Angeles, I soon discovered the photographer’s vast archive, featuring a wide range of subjects that interested her. The daughter of an African and Native American father and a white Jewish mother, her photographs seek common ground and equal representation. “Coming from bi-racial parents, I’m always trying to comprehend where I fit in the world. I’m drawn to sub-cultures and outsiders probably because of my own feelings of otherness,” says McDaniel.

Sunday Best 1, ©1995, Melodie McDaniel
Sunday Best 1, ©1995, Melodie McDaniel
Waiting ©2013, Melodie McDaniel
Waiting ©2013, Melodie McDaniel

The photographs in American Spectator, are excerpts from several of her series of personal works, from within and beyond Film Noir. She has an explorer’s eye and her investigations of faith and race and of a variety of cultures speak to an endless curiosity and an ability to witness without judgment.

Melodie McDaniel with her work at the L.A. studio of framer Jeff Kies.

Photographically speaking, Melodie McDaniel looks so at home in whatever world she’s in that her images look unaffected by her presence, whether they are staged or documented. It’s one quality, I suppose, that has contributed to her reputation as a sought-after still photographer as well as a highly successful commercial director. McDaniel’s photographs allow the audience access in, along with the warmth or heartache or joy or resignation or alienation that comes with that access.

Melodie McDaniel graduated from Art Center College of Design and lives in Los Angeles. Her work has been published and broadcast internationally. American Spectator was photographed between 1993 and 2014 in Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Kentucky, New York and California.

Spot Photo Works presents Melodie McDaniel: American Spectator, from September 19 through November 9, 2015.  An opening for the artist is scheduled from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., September 19th. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Spot is located at 6679 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.




J.K. Lavin: Mapping the History of the Moon

Full Moon Dream #6, © J.K. Lavin
Full Moon Dream #6, © 2013 J.K. Lavin

Moon River, Fly Me to the Moon, Blue Moon, How High the Moon, Bad Moon Rising, Clare de Lune, Moondance, Harvest Moon, Moonshadow. A nearly endless supply of songs named for the moon reflect our delight in a particularly striking lunar display. In Los Angeles photographer J.K. Lavin’s images, the moon has a huge presence, yet it remains unseen throughout the fourteen photographs in her exhibition opening Saturday, July 11 at Spot Photo Works in Hollywood. The moon is the lead character in the narrative, having tremendous impact on the course of events, yet it does its handiwork off-screen, out of frame.

© J.K. Lavin
Full Moon Dream #2 ©2013,  J.K. Lavin

J.K. Lavin takes to the streets deep into the evening when the full moon lights the night skies to photograph for her series Mapping the History of the Moon. With only the company of the moon as her guide and luminance, Lavin creates beautifully saturated color photographs that make us feel as though the night air is upon our skin and the incandescent window light on a porch shines through the hedge just across the street. There is a sense of home and a sense of belonging and there is the sense of observing a world just outside of reach. Someone is home, but it may not be you or I.

With the passing of her parents, Lavin wrote: “After deconstructing my family home, I stepped outside under a full moon and took a breath. I felt strangely at peace. A ritual began that night of photographing once a month by the light of the full moon. That sense of night and timelessness allows me to experience a world where I feel most at home, where in the stillness I can sense my mortality. I instinctively create the photographs that reflect what remains of the day after dark, the essence of light and life distilled into color, gestures, and liminal moments of memory and time.”

© J.K. Lavin
Full Moon Stairway ©2013, J.K. Lavin

A softness of focus that might be bothersome in many contexts, feels apropos in this case. While a subtle blur conveys the lack of ability to fully make out the details of a neighborhood at night, we also have the sense that sometimes we’re glad to let the clarity go and relax a bit. What remains is an overall languid quality, the sensation one has of taking a nightly stroll on a warm evening. Mapping the History of the Moon offers viewers a welcoming glow. You can almost smell the Star Jasmine, or hear the leaves rustling against a neighbor’s siding.

Full Moon Bungalow © J.K. Lavin
Full Moon Bungalow © 2013, J.K. Lavin

J.K. Lavin studied at The Visual Studies Workshop, New York, and received a Master of Arts degree in photography from Cal State Fullerton. Her work has been shown at Gallery 444, Palm Springs; Photoplace Gallery, Vermont and the Gallery at Roarke Art Museum, Minnesota. She lives and works in Venice, California.

Join us for an opening reception for the artist, J.K. Lavin, on Saturday, July 11, 2015, 6-9pm at Spot Photo Works, 6679 Sunset Blvd. (at historic Crossroads of the World) in Hollywood. Her exhibition will remain through September 10, 2015.  Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.



Real de Faula Golf Club, Benidorm Spain, ©2005 Robert Harding Pittman
Real de Faula Golf Club, Benidorm Spain, ©2005 Robert Harding Pittman

All across the world a uniform, homogenous model of development, inspired by Los Angeles style urban sprawl – consisting of massive freeways, parking lots, shopping malls and large-scale master planned communities with golf courses – is being stamped onto the earth’s topography. Spot Photo Works is proud to present ANONYMIZATION by Robert Harding Pittman. The exhibition will span from May 2 through July 3, 2015. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, May 2nd from 6-9 pm. Spot Photo Works is located at 6679 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood at the historic Crossroads of the World. Free parking for the reception is available in the Crossroads lot behind the gallery on Las Palmas Ave north of Sunset Blvd. Contact for inquiries.

Dubai, UAE, Robert Harding Pittman ©2009
Dubai, UAE, Robert Harding Pittman ©2009


The globalized model of architecture, which ANONYMIZATION is concerned with, does not respect or adapt itself to the cultural or natural environment onto which it is implanted. With this anonymous type of development come not only the destruction of the environment, but also a loss of culture and roots, as well as alienation. As we have seen in recent history, fervent overdevelopment has led to crises, not only financial, but also environmental and social and some even say psychological.


Mall of the Emirates, Dubai ,UAI, ©2009, Robert Harding Pittman
Mall of the Emirates, Dubai ,UAE, ©2009, Robert Harding Pittman

German – American photographer/filmmaker Robert Harding Pittman began work on ANONYMIZATION while attending graduate school at the California Institute of the Arts where he received a dual MFA in Photography and Film/Video. A Fulbright grant took him to Spain and he has since continued to photograph Los Angeles style development in Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Dubai and South Korea. The world was in the midst of a construction boom when the project began, and as world economics has foundered, cranes have come to a screeching halt, often leaving a trail of structural debris behind. Robert Harding Pittman’s book ANONYMIZATION was published in 2012 by Kehrer Verlag featuring writings by environmentalist Bill McKibben and former George Eastman House curator, Alison Nordström, along with Pittman’s photographs. The project has been nominated for the Prix Pictet and the German Photobook Award.


See the following publications for further information:


H. Lee’s Well Kept Secrets

H. Lee in the shadows at her 2014 Minneapolis exhibition of Grassland at Icebox Gallery.
H. Lee in the shadows at her 2014 Minneapolis exhibition of Grassland at Icebox Gallery.

Catch the interview with Grassland’s H. Lee by Peggy Roalf from Design Arts Daily:

Where There’s Smoke: Grassland by H. Lee to Open at Spot

Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee © 2013, all rights reserved.
Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee © 2013, all rights reserved.

While living within a community of cannabis growers in Northern California, photographer H. Lee documented both a clandestine way of life and the process of cultivation in all its stages, culminating in the publication of her 2014 book, Grassland. Spot Photo Works is pleased to present the first West Coast exhibition of Grassland, opening on March 7, 2015 with a reception for the artist from 6 – 9pm. The exhibition continues through April 28, 2015 with regular gallery hours of Monday through Friday, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm.

Spot Photo Works is located at 6679 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. You’ll find free parking for the opening in the Crossroads of the World lot (behind the gallery), just north of Sunset Blvd. on Los Palmas Ave.

Untitled from H. Lee's Grassland © 2010, all rights reserved
Untitled from H. Lee’s Grassland © 2010, all rights reserved

Grassland is an essential California story – not so unlike the popular farm-to-table stories of Sonoma and Napa valleys. The one chief difference has been the volatile legal status of the crop and H. Lee’s document, photographed between 2010 and 2013, catches the last days of pot farming at its most secretive.

Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee ©2010, all rights reserved
Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee ©2010, all rights reserved

With historic changes regarding the acceptance of marijuana settling into American society, a fundamental shift is in motion between those who seek to keep it illegal, and the overwhelming populist appeal for legal reform. For decades, farmers in Northern California have quietly operated, hiding their gardens from law enforcement. As new legal markets have begun to emerge, marijuana agriculture is moving into plain view. Grassland offers an intimate view of the epicenter of cannabis cultivation in California, where a sizable community is shaped by a plant regarded as both magical and medicinal; a plant whose cultivation holds the promise of profit, and despite changes in state policy, possible jail time.

Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee, ©2011
Untitled from Grassland by H. Lee, ©2011, all rights reserved


Gregg Segal, Lincoln Heights, © 2004
Gregg Segal, Lincoln Heights, © 2004, archival pigment print

In the series Nightscape, photographer Gregg Segal’s unlikely collaborators are the smoggy skies of the city of Los Angeles.  We’ve all heard the jokes about the L.A. air, but in Segal’s series, we see the night sky like the locals do.  Luminous and glowing with an extraordinary palette. There’s rarely a truly dark night in the city.

Segal’s 2004 series of color landscape photographs will open at Spot Photo Works on Saturday, January 17, with a reception for the artist that is open to the public from 6pm to 9pm.  The exhibition will continue through March 3rd at Spot’s Hollywood location at 6679 Sunset Blvd. at Crossroads of the World. Gallery hours are 10:30am – 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

Chinatown ©2004 Gregg Segal
Chinatown ©2004 Gregg Segal, archival pigment print

“During daylight hours, the thick bands of pollution girding the Los Angeles skyline are a constant reminder of how poor our air quality is. But at night, the foul, chemical filled air traps the city’s excessive artificial light, and in these long exposure images, our skies turn deep emerald-green, lush amber, eggplant purple, and bubble gum pink. All these glowing hues obscure the stars and what we think of as a proper night sky. Our lurid skyglow is at once toxic and seductive.”  – Gregg Segal

Koreatown, ©2004, Gregg Segal
Koreatown, ©2004, Gregg Segal, archival pigment print

Gregg Segal won the jury’s choice award at the Tokyo International Photography Festival in 2013. Recent solo exhibitions include shows at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon, The O. Winston Link Museum, Roanoke, Virginia, George Mason University and Chelsea Market, New York. His photography has been recognized with awards from American Photography, Communication Arts, PDN, The New York Press Club and more. His portraiture and photo essays have been featured in TIME, National Geographic Adventure, Fortune GQ, Dwell and Wired among others. He holds a BFA from Cal Arts, a Masters degree from USC and an MFA from New York University.

A Spot Among Friends


photo 1r

As the year comes to a close, Spot Photo Works wishes to thank our artists, our staff, our volunteers, our families and each of you, that set foot over our threshold to take a look or have a conversation or spend your money.  We appreciate you.  We’ve enjoyed all of it and look forward to more.  We hope the new year brings you good news, good health, good humor and a better world.  We’ll do our best to bring you engaging works.

A few bits of news before signing off:

Regina Pelagus I, © 2012, Chris Anthony
Regina Pelagus I, © 2012, Chris Anthony

Chris Anthony’s beautiful exhibition, Seas Without A Shore, will continue until January 12, 2012, Monday through Friday from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.  Please note that Spot will close for a break starting December 24th and will re-open on January 2nd.

Gregg Segal’s upcoming exhibition features the smoggy but luminous skies of Los Angeles. Nightscapes will open with a reception on January 17th, 2015 from 6-9:00 pm and will run through March 3. More on that later.

That’s all for now. Have fun. Be well. Be kind.

Happy New Year,

Spot Photo Works

Koreatown, © 2004, Gregg Segal
Koreatown, © 2004, Gregg Segal