Michael Rababy (Curator): California Love – A Visual Mixtape

Review by Gerhard Clausing

My wife’s opinion about this book is that it “brilliantly captures the spirit of California and should be on every coffee table.” Well, there you have it, I thought, why do a whole book review? But I know what our dedicated audience expects and what our editorial policy requires, so here’s the why and wherefore, and even the therefore.

Michael Rababy is the photo curator at the Hive Gallery in DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) and a very astute, creative individual. He thought we needed to turn our attention to positive thinking in these pandemic times. And indeed, there is much to love about California at any time: sunshine, beaches, an easy-going lifestyle, a mostly progressive attitude, the entertainment world, and much more. After a successful exhibition of photographs on the theme “California Love,” Rababy thought up this book idea as a permanent testimonial, and made the proceeds benefit our highly regarded Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP).

“This is my visual mixtape, featuring the greatest hits of friends’ and colleagues’ work that I’ve enjoyed through my years as a curator. I hope to share the excitement I have for great images the way I’ve shared my favorite rare grooves, b-sides, and bootleg recordings over my lifetime.”      – Michael Rababy

The result is a most appealing collection of photographic images, both in dramatic monochrome and glorious color, that reflects the varied talents of some of the most renowned and creative visual artists from California. It also shows special brilliance in the thematic selection, pacing, and range of the presentation.

The curator’s touch is evident: while some of the images are iconic interpretations requiring an entire page, others are combined to reflect special narratives that are self-contained stories to contemplate. Several such examples are shown below: Richard S. Chow relives fun at the beach through the eyes of his son; Aline Smithson flirts with the glamor of nearby Hollywood through dreamy recreations; Safi Alia Shabaik captures performers in the seemingly lost art of burlesque; Fred Brashear Jr. prints his portraits of Joshua (yucca) trees on paper he hand-makes from such downed trees. And yes, there are also many images with scenes featuring regular palm trees.

“My family is Lebanese and it’s common to have a big table with many different plates of food, and in a way this book is kind of like that. There is work from every corner of the state from the ocean to the deserts, from the border of Mexico to the grand sequoia trees in Northern California. Our diversity makes us strong.”   –Michael Rababy, Konbini Arts Interview

So here is your opportunity get the work of some 110 photographers, some of whom are familiar to you from the PhotoBook Journal, to dream about California, and for a most reasonable price, without wearing a mask, in the comfort of your home. Go for it, your coffee table is waiting …


California Love – A Visual Mixtape, curated by Michael Rababy

Curator:  Michael Rababy (born in Ohio; lives in Southern California) Instagram

Publisher:  Cali Editions, Los Angeles Center of Photography; © 2020  Domestic orders   International orders           

Essay and Texts:  Introduction by Michael Rababy; numerous quotes

Language:  English

Hardback with illustrated cover; stitched binding; 320 pages, paginated; 10.25 x 10.25 inches (26 x 26 cm); printed in Korea

Photobook Design and Graphic Art:  Sally Ann Field and Josh Withers; cover art and indigenous map by Damon Robinson


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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