The Midwest Photographers Project (MPP), our rotating archive
of regional work, has the pulse of a living thing. Its character shifts
slightly every month as portfolios at the end of their two-year loan
leave the collection and newly accepted portfolios find their place
on the shelves. And it’s usually only figuratively that they ever
cross my desk.
Which is why I first thought the Kodak box near my keyboard
belonged to my assistant or perhaps one of the other curatorial
assistants who spend a great deal of time in the darkroom – it did,
afterall, feature the playful doodle of a bucktoothed creature with
well-defined nostrils and an oversized head on the cover, amusingly
situated just below the words “Kodak Professional”. This creature,
however, was holding a thought bubble-like sign at the end of each
serpentine arm that stated quite unequivocally that the contents
were for MPP and that the photographer was Ed Panar.
Ed Panar’s quietly quirky Golden Palms series is, among other things,
part of MPP’s continual revitalization and currently the project’s
most recent addition. It charts the Michigan photographer’s
exploration of the Los Angeles basin, and the curious moments he
met with year after year in that journey.
A tree root in front of the Redondo Beach post office resembles
a wizened hand reaching over the curb, for instance, or a series of
trash cans line up as if solemnly marching to the street. The closest
thing to a cloud in the blue Southern Californian sky is a piece of
In an age of mural printing and unprecedented digital popularity,
Panar’s traditional chromogenic development prints are 8×10
at their biggest, and usually quite a bit smaller than that.
The once-traditional-now-anomalous style of these pictures echoes
the not-so-much-unusual-as-unexpected visions they depict, in
a medium that suggests a minimum of manipulation and at a scale
that respects these small events for what they are. And if that’s
not enough to spark your curiosity, you should know that Panar’s
voicemail identifies the man exclusively by the brief, but distinctive,
dip and rise of a slide whistle.
By Kendra Greene @ the Museum of Contemporary Photography