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‘Our Ocean’s Edge’: Exhibit at La Jolla Historical Society to showcase California’s marine beauty

"La Jolla Cove, Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve" is a photo by Jasmine Swope, whose work will be shown in “Our Ocean’s Edge.”
“La Jolla Cove, Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve” is a photo by Jasmine Swope, whose work will be shown in “Our Ocean’s Edge,” an exhibit at the La Jolla Historical Society that depicts life in California’s marine protected areas.
(Courtesy of Heath Fox)

For its first in-person exhibition in more than a year, the La Jolla Historical Society is taking a slightly different approach with “Our Ocean’s Edge,” a collection of black-and-white photographs by Jasmine Swope that depict life in California’s marine protected areas, paired with poetic narratives by author Dwight Holing.

The exhibition runs June 5 to Sept. 5 at the Historical Society’s Wisteria Cottage Gallery at 780 Prospect St. Public hours will be noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is free.

The exhibition is the first the La Jolla Historical Society has presented that it did not originate. It’s also the first time the exhibit has featured a photos-and-prose partnership.

“That’s one of the things I like about this exhibition,” said Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox. “It’s a lovely pairing that shows that context. The photographs are basically seascape compositions, portraits of the land/sea interface in the marine protected areas. They are really beautiful in black and white, which has a unique characteristic on their own. They’re subtle, poetic images that convey the majesty of these recourses.”

The photos were taken by Swope, a Serbian-born American photographer based in Santa Monica, in 2015 during a road trip on the California coast. In creating the “Our Ocean’s Edge” exhibit, she brought on Holing, a San Francisco-based author specializing in natural history, conservation and marine issues. His nonfiction books have been published by University of California Press, Random House and Macmillan, and his articles on environmental topics have appeared in newspapers and magazines.

"Russian River State Marine Conservation Area" by Jasmine Swope
“Russian River State Marine Conservation Area” by Jasmine Swope.
(Courtesy of Heath Fox)

“This show has traveled, and we are the last venue on its tour and the only one in San Diego,” Fox said. “It has been to Laguna Beach and Oxnard and Monterey and Santa Cruz.”

“As we all know, environmental issues are a focus of public attention these days and rightfully so, given the threat of climate change and threat of loss of biodiversity,” he added. “These marine protected areas are like state parks, but in the ocean. We have them up and down the coast and some right off La Jolla. So this is not only a state and San Diego resource but a La Jolla resource. And while a lot of people are familiar with this resource, many may not be, so these works give people the chance to see the marine protected areas and appreciate the beauty and majesty of these assets.”

Marine protected areas are designated to protect or conserve marine life and habitat. La Jolla has four MPAs in the waters between Scripps Pier and Bird Rock: Two are state marine reserves and two are state marine conservation areas.

Because there are different rules as to what can and cannot be done in a state marine reserve and a state marine conservation area, 17 signs were posted across La Jolla in 2018. There are two types of signs — interpretive panels that explain what’s permitted and the wildlife that lives in the area, and “You are here” signs to let people know which MPA they are near. Some signs are in English and Spanish.

Swope told the La Jolla Light that she is grateful to showcase these “important” areas.

“I’ve always been inspired by the beauty of the natural landscape. When I use photography as a means of self-expression, I am most satisfied when I’m able to capture the essence of the environment before me,” she said. “The ‘Our Ocean’s Edge’ project is especially inspiring. At each photo session the landscape is new and ever-changing. Whether the scene is tumultuous with crashing waves or a quiet misty morning, on every occasion I find myself immersed in the natural beauty as if there is no beginning and no end. My head and heart seem to merge somehow and I intuitively start making pictures as I gaze in awe by the mystery of how creation occurs.”

"Goleta Slough Marine Conservation Area" by Jasmine Swope
“Goleta Slough Marine Conservation Area” by Jasmine Swope.
(Courtesy of Heath Fox)

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work on this important project while showcasing the California coast’s natural beauty, to bring awareness on the importance for a healthy, thriving ocean,” she added. “It is the source of life for all living creatures on this predominantly ocean planet we call Earth. The ocean brings us life, its beauty brings us pleasure.”

After experiencing a year of changing COVID-19-related regulations and closures, Fox said he’s also grateful for the opportunity to provide an exhibition for the public.

“We are ready to return to our public exhibitions and programs, starting with this show,” he said. “We are planning our youth programs this summer … with safety restrictions in place, but it’s just so refreshing to be able to restart our exhibitions and programs and emerge from this pandemic.”

Masks will be required until June 15, when the state plans to lift its mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions. The Historical Society says it will permit whatever capacity is allowed by state and county guidelines.

Learn more at ouroceansedge.com or lajollahistory.org. ◆