Shades of L.A. and Shades of California

Within months of incorporating in 1990, Photo Friends sponsored the Library’s “Shades of L. A.: A Search for Visual Ethnic History.” During the six-year project, with the help of library staff and hundreds of volunteers, Photo Friends copied 10,000 photographs from family albums in Los Angeles to broaden the Photograph Collection’s representation of ethnicities in the city. Exhibits were displayed in the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library and many branch libraries throughout the city. A book, entitled Shades of L. A.: Pictures from Ethnic Family Albums, was published by The New Press.

The “Shades of L. A.” archive at the Los Angeles Public Library represents a wide range of Los Angeles families–including African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans and other Latinos, urban American Indians, Jews, Armenians, families of Middle Eastern descent (including Arabs, Israelis, Turks, and Iranians), families of European descent, people of mixed race and ethnicity, and people who do not identify with any ethnic group.

In 1997, “Shades of California” was created. It was modeled on the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Shades of L. A.” Sponsored by the California State Library and with assistance from the L.A.P.L. Photo Friends, “Shades of California” held photo days at public libraries throughout the state where people were invited to share their family albums. The host libraries archived the images copied from the albums and sent an additional set to the California State Library. This project model is still being used today by libraries throughout the nation!

The “Shades” projects have also been featured on L. A.’s public television station, KCET. In 2003, Huell Howser, who originally suggested that “Shades of L. A.” be expanded throughout the state, produced an hour-long “Shades of California” program, based on a photo day in the L. A. neighborhood of Cypress Park. The KCET Web site also includes “Shades of L. A.” in their Web stories on rites of passage.

For additional information about the “Shades of L. A.” or “Shades of California” projects, or to view more images:

View over 7,000 images from the Shades of L. A. project on the Library’s Web site:

Shades of L. A.: Pictures From Ethnic Family Albums
Carolyn Kozo Cole and Kathy Kobayashi
New York: The New Press: Distributed by W. W. Norton, c1996

Shades of California: The Hidden Beauty of Ordinary Life: California’s Family Album
Edited by Kimi Kodani Hill; introduction by Robert Daseler; afterword by Carolyn Kozo Cole and Kathy Kobayashi
Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, c2001
(preview this book in Google Book Search)