Allan Sekula, photographer and CalArts professor, dies at 62


Allan Sekula, a renowned photographer and longtime professor at the California Institute of the Arts whose artistic output centered on the political consequences of maritime commerce and global trade, died in Los Angeles on Saturday.

He was 62 and had been battling advanced cancer, according to CalArts.

He had been on the faculty of CalArts for close to three decades, teaching classes in photography and media.


As a child, Sekula lived in San Pedro and his proximity to one of the the busiest ports in the nation seemed to have greatly affected his work as a photographer. His photography often focused on the shipping industry, ocean travel and commerce.

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A 1996 solo exhibit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art featured Sekula’s photographs of famous ports around the world as well as images of the ocean. A Times review called the show “a handsome combination of romance and realism, intimacy and detachment.”

In addition to photography, Sekula was a writer and critic whose articles appeared in numerous art-related publications. His 1986 essay “Body and the Archive” explored the notion of photography as a political medium in modern history.

He also published books on photography and other visual media.

One of Sekula’s more recent works was the experimental documentary “The Forgotten Space,” which he co-directed with longtime collaborator Noël Burch. The 2010 movie explored the shipping industries and other forms of international commerce.


A review of the movie in the New York Times called it “unabashedly polemical and rigorously pessimistic, a sustained Marxian indictment of 21st-century capital.”

Sekula was born in 1951 in Erie, Pa., and moved as a child with his family to San Pedro. He attended UC San Diego, where he took classes taught by artist John Baldessari.

After leaving school, Sekula taught at New York University and Ohio State University before beginning his tenure at CalArts in 1985.

His survivors include his wife, Sally Stein; his mother, Evelyn; and his siblings Stefan, Brian, Victoria and Michelle.


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