Visiting MOPA (Museum of Photographic Arts)

MOPA (Museum of Photographic Arts)

The museum that I chose to visit was the Museum of Photographic Arts or MOPA, located in Balboa Park in the city of San Diego. MOPA holds many wildlife and nature photographs from several places across the world. The museum believes that sharing the art and the stories that each picture represents will be an essential part of gathering information about nature. While the museum holds collections of images and different arts representing the entire span of photography, this exhibition specifically involved the most recent collection. I enjoy visiting this museum because it is one of my favorite art museums. In particular, the museum has a certain ambiance that draws people to it because it has beautiful and powerful, meaningful exhibits. Another interesting fact about the museum is that it is the first museum in the entire region of South California to come up with the idea of “Pay What You Wish “admission system. This admission system means that you only pay anything you wish to enter the museum and view the exhibits.

The main type of art that I came across were photographs, and more specifically, portraits.  To be honest, I enjoyed every piece that I saw. However, I happen to choose four major pictures that I want to discuss in this paper; I believe they have a lot of hidden information and message to convey. The four photos that captured my attention include; “Ordeal by Roses” by Eikoh Hosoe, Undergrowth by Robert ParkeHarrison & Shana ParkeHarrison, “Liberty Head, Illinois” by Ruth Thorne-Thomsen and lastly I am fine by Paige wisely.

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Ordeal by Roses

Eikoh Hosea

Ordeal by Roses #32, 1961

Gelatin silver print

20 × 24 in 50.8 × 61 cm

Eikoh Hosoe was born in 1933 in Yamagata. He is one of the most famous photographers who emerged during the post-world war II. Hosoe is well recognized for his psychological charged pictures or images that he used to explore different subjects such as erotic obsession, irrationality, and death (“Eikoh Hosoe – Artists – Howard Greenberg Gallery,” n.d.). In 1952, he attended a school in Tokyo and studied photography, and it was at this time that he formed a bond with other known artists such as Ei-Q and came up with artist group. After graduating, he took part in different exhibits, including his first solo exhibition, where he presented “An American Girl in Tokyo.”

Mr. Hosoe’s most striking and probably the best-known series is the one that he included Yukio Mishima. These series include the most famous image that was named “Ordeal by Roses.” This picture was taken in the fall of 1961. In this photograph, Mishima is represented as a young erotic man. In the photo, Mishima’s eyes are looking intently/ keenly at the photographer at the same time a rose is pressed to his nose. Killed by roses or ordeal by roses is a morbid and erotic fable that is well known because of its provocative illusion to Mishima character, who is represented as gay, homosexual, and despair.

The portrait is manipulated to convey the desired message. In this particular picture, Mishima, who is the main character, is portrayed as a strangely animated person with a strong body. The photographer made use of light and colors to ensure that the message is well represented. Black and white colors have been used to bring out the contrast in the photograph. The use of black and white color has been used to bring out the texture of the image or picture. In this case, details have been captured by removing distractions of other colors. The image is sharp, and this was used purposely to show Mishima an attractive and robust body. The illumination(light), in this case, was dull, most probably, the photo was taken in a dark room or at night. The direction of light, brightness, and color was manipulated for accurate effect.


Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison


Type C print

Robert ParkeHarrison was born in 1968 while his wife Shana ParkeHarrison was born in 1964. Both of them are well-known photographers. One of their famous piece of art is Undergrowth, which was published in 2006. In this particular piece of art, they introduce color into the palette, and the couples depict a relationship between an older man and nature. The picture shows the contrast between an older man on the left and the vine branches on the right-hand side. In this picture, we can also see an older man with blood-stained in his hand, and the bloodied hand sits on his lap. A single tendril from the tree reaches for the man, and we can also see a closed door in the background. I believe the photographer used all this to convey a strong message. The tender green shoot of the vine is used to symbolize hope and growth. The older man in the picture is represented as an ambiguous figure; from the image, it is hard to tell the older man’s personality or character. However, in my opinion, the blurry representation of the older man in contrast to the clear branches shows that the older man is probably aging and approaching his grave. The clear pictures of the tree branch on the right represent the hopeful elements. I think it is also indicating the process of life, that is decay after death. At the background, we can also see the door, but we don’t know what is behind the door, I think the artist used the door to indicate the uncertainty or ambiguity of fate.

The subject matter or the type of picture is a portrait; the scene that represents the undergrowth photograph is manipulated. I think the entire scene is manipulated to pass a strong message about time and nature. Use black and white, and other colors are an essential method that has been used to bring out the contrast in the picture. The colors have been used to differentiate the elements in the film. The right-hand side of the image is sharp; the left-hand side is blurry; this was done purposely by the photographer to convey a message. As we can see in the picture, we can see two aspects in the picture; the sharp image represented by the growing tree stretching to the left-hand side indicates hope.

In contrast, the blurry image of a man with blood-stained in his hand indicates a has been used to show a difficult situation.The use of black and white colors and a combination of green color in this picture is excellent because it has brought a clear texture. Usually, the texture should not be overpowered by other elements.

Liberty head

Ruth Thorne-Thomsen


Gelatin silver print

4.5 x 3.5 inches

Born in the United States in 1943, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen is described as one of the best photographers in her time. As a photographer, she has received several awards in painting, including the BFA awards from Southern Illinois University in 1970. Thorne-Thomsen holds a BA in photography and MFA in photography from Columbia College and The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, respectively. In her entire career, Thorne-Thomsen made use of photography and pictures as a means of the invention. She was interested in unique archetypes and symbols, myth, dreams, and magic. The liberty head is among her famous work, the mystique and the quality of discovering and explaining the exotic ancient civilization goes in line with a unique and marvelously low-tech method of storytelling in the piece of art “Liberty Head, Illinois.”

Thorne-Thomsen is described as one of the best and pioneers of pinhole photography (Jarmusch, 2011).  In the picture, the liberty head, Thorne-Thomsen, used a pinhole camera to create a surreal landscape and beautiful photo by juxtaposing the real surrounding with collaged objects and images. A pinhole camera, as we all know, is made from simple material such as cardboard, foil, and tape. In this case, a small hole is made in aluminum foil (material) by a pin. The size of the hole determines the sharpness of the image. Everything is shown in the pinhole picture, whether close, far, small or large, is rendered with a similar quality definition that distinguishes each of them (Spencer & Long-Middleton, 2013).

From the photograph, “Liberty Head, Illinois,” various interpretations can be summarized. First of all, the image or the picture shows the remnants of a lost civilization. The second is the representation of a surgical procedure that is being performed on a human being. I think the photographer was trying to convey a strong message about the lost civilization. In this collection, we can see a series of pictures, each one conveying almost the same message.

I like this picture and its use of shadow; the shadow has a sharp pattern that is very appealing, therefore indicating creativity. The black and white color has been used to show the contrast between the elements in the picture. In this picture, dim light has been used

The use of light in this picture is of high level, light has been used to control the image  and give an accurate redention of the scene. I think the direction of ligh, color and brightness has been manipulated to have the best effect. This photo was taken most probably in the evening.


I am fine

Paige wisely

The third picture is known as “I am fine.” The photographer or the artist that made this piece of artwork is Paige Wisely. The black and white photograph depicts a young girl with swollen eyes, displaying a piece of paper with cation I AM FINE. The picture is communicating a strong message about depression; as we can see from the lady’s eyes, she has been crying while at the same time pretending to be okay. The moment I saw this picture, the first question that crossed my mind is; How many people pretend to be happy, but deep down, we know they are not?  Typically, at an early stage of depression, most people usually pretend to be happy. This type of depression can also be described as smiling depression. In this case, a person wears a mask to hide his/her true identity.

The picture type is a portrait; I think the photographer captured a specific moment in time. Black and white color have been used to show moods. Monochrome has this power when it comes to moods. The conversion of the black and white color is used in this case to change the tone and indicate a sad mood. Black and white color have also been used to bring out the contrast and texture.

In my opinion, the overall layout of this exhibition was excellent. The display and presentation of different pieces of art were just amazing. This was one of my best moments because I learned a lot; I have a deeper understanding of what photography entails and the importance of photography in the visual arts. Photography is a language, that makes use of visual elements, just like other languages, photography can be used for artistic purposes. Photography is used to convey or pass different information. As a visual art form, they are used to exploit human vulnerabilities and can make human to experience emotions, thus compel and move us to do better things. In the above cases, the photographs were used to convey a different message to specific audiences.


Jarmusch, A. (2011). ‘Liberty Head, Illinois’. Retrieved 18 February 2020, from

Spencer, L., & Long-Middleton, M. (2013). Inventing A World with A Pinhole Camera. Retrieved 18 February 2020, from

Eikoh Hosoe – Artists – Howard Greenberg Gallery. Retrieved 18 February 2020, from


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