In Remembrance of Carolyn Kozo Cole (1943-2018)

Carolyn Kozo Cole (left) and Kathy Kobayashi with Shades of L.A. photos.

Photo Friends is saddened to share the news that our founder, Carolyn Kozo Cole, passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s on December 6th.

Carolyn began her career as a librarian on the East Coast, working in public, school, and corporate libraries. An avid fan of photography and a fourth-generation photographer herself, she served as an exhibit curator with the Seattle Public Library. When the Security Pacific National Bank Collection was donated to the Los Angeles Public Library in 1981, she became an exhibit consultant and began a nearly 30-year career with LAPL.

In 1990 she became the Senior Librarian of the Photo Collection and immediately established Photo Friends, the support group that assisted in launching the Shades of L.A. project. Carolyn was the driving force behind this landmark effort, working with Kathy Kobayashi to record Los Angeles’ culturally diverse history through the collecting of family photos. During her two decades in the position Carolyn also started the Photographer’s Eye lecture series (now in its 20th year), and spearheaded two photography projects to document contemporary L.A. neighborhoods and industries. Always a phenomenal ambassador for the Photo Collection, she brought it international attention.

She retired in 2009 and moved to San Diego to be near her son, daughter, and five grandchildren. At this time, services have not been scheduled. Messages of condolence can be sent to her son and daughter, Chris and Justine Kozo, at

If you would like to make a donation in Carolyn’s memory, please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Those of us fortunate enough to work with Carolyn knew her as a generous and compassionate person who loved Los Angeles and always sought for others to experience the city at its best. Her work with the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and Photo Friends laid the foundation for these organizations to continue to grow and share the history of our city with the world.