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Photographs document evolving structures

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President Devorah Lieberman was one of the guests at the Carlson Gallery reception for Tavo Olmos’ “Memory Space” exhibition Nov. 3. Olmos talked with students and faculty about his pictures, which feature buildings and structures before they were torn down or remodeled. / photo by Danielle Navarro

Christina Collins Burton
Managing Editor

The final memories of buildings that are gone have been captured in the photographs by Tavo Olmos in his collection “Memory Space” on display in the Irene Carlson gallery.

The exhibit is made up of 22 photographs that show structures that range from shots of a Santa Monica city jail bathroom to the University of La Verne’s Old Gym building from 2007.

“It seemed to me that this show would have the most impact if you were standing in the gallery looking at these buildings and the realization suddenly occurred to you that you’re looking at structures that are familiar and gone,” said Gary Colby, professor of photography.

The photographs were taken in a traditional style and printed in black and white.

The original purpose of each photo was to capture the final moments of building set for demolition or renovation.

Colby first saw Olmos’ work when the final days of the Old Gym were being remembered.

Olmos had a piece on display of the inside of the gym.

“I was blown away,” Colby said, “It was a luminous, smooth print, I knew immediately what he’d done to make it and I had always thought that I wanted to show this in some meaningful way.”

“Very few people have ever gotten the chance to see the photos that are documented,” Olmos said.

Normally these types of photographs are tucked away into archives never to be seen again.

“It was an interesting process for me because I was able to revisit a lot of projects,” Olmos said. “It struck me how much we affect the environment and how the environment we built has a dramatic affect on us.”

Olmos’ photos offer a concrete view of memories that have long since passed.

All of the photos forever hold the echo of memory for anyone who ever came in contact with the altered structures.

“I really like black and white photography,” Jakeh Landrum, senior liberal arts major said.

“All of them are composed really well with a good balance of contrast and the pictures are sharp and crisp all the way through.”

Landrum’s eye was drawn to a photograph on the north end of the gallery of the Highland Reservoir in Yorba Linda.

The photograph had a 15 to 20 minute exposure time when Olmos made the photo.

“It gives you the feeling of isolation,” Landrum said. “You can see that in all the photos; that no one is really there.”

The photograph also has the hidden treat of a ghost figure caught on film.

Photographer George Katzenberger, who assisted Olmos with the composition, stepped into the frame by accident as Olmos was photographing.

Katzenberger ended up forever becoming a part of the picture’s memory.

All of his photos hold a different point of interest for every viewer.

Each of Olmos’ photographs preserves the sensation of shock as you recognize even structures you have never seen before.

“I am happy to know that if nothing else, we have these memories,” Olmos said.

Olmos’ work will be on display through Dec. 9.

The Carlson Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Christina Collins Burton can be reached at

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