BLOG   •  MOBILE   ·  May 19, 2022

Forbes Deems Museum of Photographic Arts as “San Diego’s Photo Gem”

  • Independent museums devoted to photography like MOPA are rare in the world
  • Recognition highlights photography’s ability to “educate, inform, challenge and lift our spirits”

After visiting an opening reception of three new photo exhibitions at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Forbes contributor, culture maven and arts enthusiast Tom Teicholz appointed MOPA “San Diego’s photo gem.”

Image of visitor in MOPA gallery

Independent photography museum

Precious and rare, the museum is a standout, according to Teicholz. Places like MOPA, organizations solely dedicated to photography, are not common. 

“Turns out MOPA is even more special than I imagined,” Teicholz writes.

In the U.S., MOPA is one of three independent museums dedicated to photography. 

A highlight in California arts and culture, the museum is located in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Admission is donation based, which means there is no set admission fee. Instead, visitors can make a contribution at entry. 

Why photography and MOPA matter today

Ruud van Empel, Dawn #2

It is through its solid commitment to photography that the museum can present the medium in its full diversity. 

“MOPA reminded me of the myriad ways this ‘lens-based medium,’ whether journalistic and realistic, or abstract and artistic, can educate, inform, challenge, and lift our spirits as an expression of the vision of those who see the images of our world.”

Currently, the museum is showing:

Teicholz got to witness the power — or powers — of image-making. 

MOPA is also a center for visual learning. Through programs and exhibitions, all who engage with MOPA can learn how to use, make and understand images. These skills are important in today’s visual culture. Try: 1/ Reading images in media (TV or social platforms) or 2/ knowing how to leverage the medium to communicate whatever it is that matters to the image-maker. 

“What we want to show is not only the beauty and art of photography, but also the power of the medium, its implication for social change and the messages that get sent,” said Deborah Klochko, MOPA’s Lawrence S. Friedman executive director and chief curator. “All of those are very crucial today.”

Whether it is through community programs like its Exposure or SEPIA — which are learning opportunities for youth, schools and seniors — or online learning series like Photo 101 or Photo Club, the museum and its center for visual learning aim to do that which Teicholz captured— highlight photography’s ability to “educate, inform, challenge…” and yes, “lift our spirits,” too.

Visit MOPA, one of the world’s only independent photography museums, Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In 2022, starting Memorial Day through Labor Day, the space will be open Thursdays as well on the same hours. 

Images courtesy of Stacy Keck.

Third image: Ruud van Empel, Dawn #2, 2008, Cibachrome print. Collection of Museum of Photographic Arts. Gift of the Lawrence Friedman Trust. © Ruud van Empel


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MOPA is now MOPA@SDMA!Learn More


Welcome to the Museum of Photographic Arts at The San Diego Museum of Art!

As of July 1, 2023, the Museum of Photographic Arts and The San Diego Museum of Art have merged to become one unified institution. The Museum of Photographic Arts is now the Museum of Photographic Arts at The San Diego Museum of Art (MOPA@SDMA).

MOPA@SDMA remains a pay-what-you wish museum open Thursdays through Sundays 11:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you soon!