NEWS   ·  October 9, 2019

Stoumen Prize Winners Show How Portraits Capture Humanity

  • Two Lou Stoumen-award recipients return to MOPA’s galleries in The Stories They Tell
  • Debbie Flemming Caffery’s images evoke emotional connection between her and her subjects
Debbie Fleming Caffery, After the Snake Bite, 1983, Gelatin silver print. Collection of the Museum of Photographic Arts. Museum purchase. © Debbie Fleming Caffery.


Two Lou Stoumen Prize in Photography recipients appear in The Stories They Tell: A Hundred Years of Photography exhibition, which looks at 100 years of the medium. Photographic works by Debbie Flemming Caffery and Gary Schneider return to the Museum of Photographic Arts’ galleries, along other photography that comprise the Museum’s permanent collection of 9,000 works.

The Lou Stoumen Prize highlights a mid-career photographer whose work deals broadly with the concepts of humanity.

In 1996, MOPA awarded its first prize to Flemming Caffery. Images by the photographer are not simple documents of life; she captures the mystery and spirit of the people and places that she photographs. As recounted in Lou Stoumen Award Winners: The Legacy, a 2009 MOPA exhibition, her images evoke a powerful emotional connection between herself as a photographer and her subjects.


Sound familiar? Watch MOPA’s Photo 101’s take on developing relationships with subjects in this video tutorial on portraits.


In The Stories They Tell, visitors come face to face with the following pieces by the award-winning photographer:

  • After the Snake Bite (1983)
  • Polly, October (1984)
  • “Smoke Walking,” Patoutville, Louisiana, winter 1989 (1989)
Debbie Fleming Caffery, Polly, October, 1984, Gelatin silver print. Collection of the Museum of Photographic Arts. Museum purchase. © Debbie Fleming Caffery.


The piece on exhibition by Gary Schneider, Yvonne (2001), challenges the notion of portraiture. The process: Schneider and his subject are in a darkened room, where the only light source is a flashlight that he moves over his subject’s face. Since the subject has no place to focus, it creates a very different feel to traditional portraits. The result: portraiture that is both beautiful and unsettling.

Through February 2020 at MOPA, The Stories They Tell seeks to provide a vital part of collecting: Sharing the work and the stories that each piece holds. By seeing the art and not just storing it, MOPA allows visitors to learn about the makers, their influences and motivations.

Financial support for The Stories They Tell was provided by The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation; the City of San Diego, Commission for Arts and Culture; the Gardner Bilingual Fund; and the VISION 20/20: Exhibition Fund. For sponsorship or underwriting opportunities on this or upcoming exhibitions contact a member of the Development Team at or 619-238-7559 x300.


About Lou Stoumen
Louis C. Stoumen (American, 1917-1991), an accomplished writer, photographer and filmmaker, published 10 photography books and earned two Academy Awards for his film productions during a career that spanned more than four decades. He was well known for the deliberate use of text in his images to imply narrative and context and coined “Paper Movie” to describe his publications of photography and words. Stoumen taught at UCLA Film School for two decades before retiring to Sebastopol, Calif. MOPA received his archive in 1992 and established the Lou Stoumen Prize to award working photographers of outstanding merit.


About The Lou C. Stoumen Archive at MOPA

The Lou C. Stoumen Archive (1925-1992) consists of personal and subject files spanning a wide range of Stoumen’s professional activities: from his involvement with the Photo League as a young freelance photojournalist and service in the U.S. Army during WWII, to his professorship with UCLA’s Cinematography Department.

The collection includes catalogs, contracts, correspondence, photographs, negatives, slides, portfolios, certificates, news clippings, magazine clippings, newsletters, pamphlets, design booklets, diagrams, prints and illustrations, manuscripts (typed and hand-written), manuscript dummies, screenplays, scripts, proofs, programs, promotional flyers, date books, journals and ledgers, magazines, passport and war correspondent pass.

The collection is stored on-site at MOPA. It’s open for research by appointment only. Contact the Edmund L. and Nancy K. Dubois Library for information.


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