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By Roxana Vosough

Photograph, California Dreaming, by Frankie Castro,  one of the many works selected for Unseen the exhibition.

Architecture student, Devin Gharakhanian took an ambitous leap in composing a juried photography exhibition in

Los Angeles, entitled "Unseen".  He spoke to us about the inspiration behind the exhibit and his upcoming ventures in the art world.

 How has your studies in architecture impacted your experience in photography?

Devin Gharakhanian: Let me start off by saying, that if I wasn’t studying in the field of design, more specifically architecture, I’m not sure I would have discovered my passion for photography.  Just being educated in the field of design gives one the eye and thought process to pursue the act of “photo-making.” More specifically, during the summer of 2011, I embarked on a journey to continue my architectural education in a study abroad program where I spent the summer studying in two very influential cities, the first term in Barcelona and the second in Berlin. The three most significant factors of this educational expedition were my Nikon 3100 SLR camera, my mentor/professor Gerard Smulevich, and my curiosity to explore these foreign cities. During this trip, professor Smulevich helped me unravel the intellectual depth that an image possesses. Rather than just being a captivating aesthetic to look out, a photo can also be intellectually stimulating.  This approach ignited my curiosity and challenged my creative ability. I was soon exploring and trying to re-create an image that spoke to me, the stranger, and now the scholar. He trained me on how to control my unconscious or better yet my visual impulse when “making rather than taking a photo. “

How has your experience in photography impacted the exhibit?
My approach to photography is somewhat particular to my own unconscious in that I compose unusual moments in reaction to my visual impulse. The “Unseen” exhibition was specifically calling out for such moments. It was during my photo series in Yosemite National Park entitled, “Unusual Moments in Yosemite”, that inspired the idea of curating the exhibit.  During the series, I kept asking myself what others might find in that setting, what moment would ignite his or her visual impulse, and how they would react to their unusual moment.  In conclusion, it was my experience during photographing the series “Unusual Moments in Yosemite”,   that I envisioned an exhibit that celebrates the individual and exposes to the world unseen frames captured through the lens.

What inspired the exhibit?
I was an architecture student who had an uncontrollable love for taking photos. However, at the end of 2011, I took a chance and submitted one of my photos for a competition. Fortunately, I was honored by The Julius Shulman Institute AIA/SFV Amateur Photography Award and this empowered me to pursue photography on a more serious level. This feeling of empowerment was one of the key driving forces that inspired the unseen photo exhibition.  The intention or inspiration was to provide an opportunity for other amateurs, like myself, to have an opportunity to have their work exposed, critiqued, and embraced in a professional setting. Ultimately, my hope for the exhibition was to empower the creative youth to keep building on their abilities and react to their photographic intuitions. 

Of the 525 photos submitted, the exhibition was proud to showcase 37 photos. We were pleased with the turn out and warm reception received, and the ultimate hope is that the exhibit helped to encourage and inspire everyone who participated.

Why the title "Unseen”?  

The title was a process in and of itself; a continuous transformation that never seemed to end. Although subtle, “unseen” stood for everything the exhibition was about.  Unseen moments, unseen photographers, the unseen efforts and collaboration of the creative youth.

Personally, the word “unseen” is far more significant to me in that  

 my greatest fear is to be unseen

I’m afraid of never being realized and going through life as just another undiscovered visionary artist. This is why the goal of this exhibit was to shine some light on the undiscovered or unseen individual who has a unique ability.

Can you tell us about which particular works stand out to you and why?
I loved the variation of style, composition, color, scale, and setting in all 37 juried photos.  In fact, I was compelled by the majority of the (500+) images submitted, because they all spoke about the individual behind the frame. If I had to pick the work(s) that really stood out for me, I would say the bed garden (an unseen moment that would trigger my own visual impulse), the stump (the strategy used to make the frame is unseen and intriguing when realized), and the border (which really talks about these irregular unseen scenarios within the built environment).

What was the most valuable lesson you learned in planning a juried exhibition?
The team dynamics between the curator(s) and Juror(s) is probably the most crucial relationship when formulating an exhibit. Anyone planning on curating an exhibit must know that the jury is in full control of what products are showcased in the exhibition. Therefore I quickly learned that the juror(s) is as important as the artists; because their opinion influences the quality, aesthetic, and conversation of the exhibition. There should be a common interest and trust between the curator and the juror in order to produce a successful and complete exhibition. Unseen jurors were adequate in featuring not only strong images, but by balancing the contrast of each unseen image to preserve continuity within the content and meaning of the exhibit.

What would you do differently next time?
Being a perfectionist I’ve always strived to strategize and orchestrate my plan of action ahead of time; however the results always seem to evolve in an unpredictable manner. I learned a long time ago that nothing is ever perfect nor will it ever be, and that the process between the idea and the product is where the magic happens. So other than some minor details, I have no regrets, and am completely satisfied with the final turn out. I’m glad I pursued this idea even though I’m not a photographer, nor a curator. I’m just thankful for the body of students, zone v_photo club and the faculty coordinator Niku Kashef, for believing enough to adopt this ambitious idea to collaborate and produce a photo exhibition. We just wanted to be part of a collaborative effort with hopes to empower the creative youth.  Let me just say, working within a group has its difficult moments, but it was truly an experience I learned from and will not forget. Steve Jobs said it best, “A group of people working together create friction and noise; this is good, because in the end they polish each other.” So next time, I would do exactly the same; be part of a mysterious process but with a little bit more knowledge and experience.

Will you be planning any other upcoming exhibitions?
Without a doubt, yes! I’ve already been pre-meditating my next proposal to the WUHO gallery, located in Hollywood, California. I’m hoping to further elaborate and extend the concept that influenced the unseen, but within the medium of architecture. In fact, I’m the co-creator of “Super-Architects”, along with my partner and  co-creator, Julia Amouyal. This new social media platform will help expose the work of elite students from around the world by displaying their designs and concepts; inspiring not only them but generations to come. I’m hoping to create an exhibition featuring “unseen” thesis projects from architecture students around the world, issuing a call for entries on an international scale. Our mission will be to create an interactive happening between students and professionals within the creative community where projects, knowledge, and inspiration can be shared. So be on the lookout for another stimulating exhibition!

Roxana Vosough is the Founder and Publisher of

Mode-Moderne Journal 

For more Art related articles see below

 MMJ. Art Articles.    

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