Explore LIFE at The Annenberg Space for Photography with Kids

Are you familiar with The Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City? It’s a favorite outing of mine—a unique cultural destination in a surprisingly peaceful setting. A friend introduced me to it with a National Geographic exhibit back in 2014. Since then I have taken my visiting parents to another exhibit there. And then this past holiday break, I took my own family, including my kids, to see the current exhibit, LIFE: A Journey through Time.

LIFE at AnnenbergI highly recommend a trip to the Photography Space to see the current exhibit, and it’s a great one for the kids as well. LIFE: A Journey through Time, on display through March 20, is a photographic interpretation of life on Earth from the Big Bang to the present by acclaimed National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting. In order to complete this project, Lanting spent many years traveling the world, including visiting some very remote locations and unique museum collections. The result is a “celebration of planet Earth that aims to educate and inspire through images and stories of the incredible biodiversity that surrounds us.”

What I liked so much about the exhibit was how it was organized. All the pieces, in this case the images, fell so nicely into place in my mind. The organization also helped the kids understand and appreciate the exhibit so much more. It’s easy to enter an exhibit and feel overwhelmed with the sudden abundance of images. In this case, however, we could proceed step by step focusing on one section at a time.

As described on their website, the exhibit is organized into the following sections, each with a multitude of fascinating images:

  • “Elements” interprets Earth’s early history and shows interactions among the five classical elements: earth, air, fire, water and space.
  • “Beginnings” traces life from single-celled origins into more complex forms in the sea.
  • “Out of the Sea” evokes the time when life first ventured ashore.
  • “On Land” covers the period when plants and animals colonized solid ground.
  • “Into the Air” highlights the evolutionary innovations of birds and flowering plants, ending with the cataclysmic events that caused the demise of the dinosaurs.
  • “Out of the Dark” portrays the rise of mammals.
  • “Planet of Life” envisions the collective force of life as a sixth element shaping our planet.

There is an activity guide available for kids. Kids are promised a “fun treat” if they bring the completed guide back to the front desk. There’s nothing like a “treat” to motivate my kids. I tried to warn them that the front desk’s definition of “fun treat” probably wasn’t the same as their idea. They took a chance.

The guide was a bit superficial. It would have been great if the guide had followed the organization of the exhibit and explored the themes a bit, but at least the guide got them thinking a little about what was going on around them.

When they turned in the completed guide, they were offered a choice of two stickers from a sheet since they had already received the toy bus on the way in. You can imagine how my 9- and 11-year-old boys felt about receiving stickers for a prize when they were hoping for a “fun treat”.

Another part of the exhibit that I really enjoyed was the documentary short film. The documentary gave us a look at what went on behind the scenes of Lanting’s multi-year LIFE project. (There has always been a documentary as part of the exhibits I’ve gone to at the Photography Space, and they have always been a highlight of the visit.)

Besides the fact that the current exhibit is very kid-friendly, there are many other reasons that make The Annenberg Space for Photography a good family excursion, at least for this exhibit. First of all, the Photography Space is of reasonable size and you can be done in an hour, or even less if needed. Also, admission is always free (they validate parking and you only pay a nominal parking fee). Finally, it is located in a unexpectedly peaceful park. There’s open space to run around in. There are games (bocce and bean bag toss at least one of the times I was there) available for public use. There are many eateries to get a snack or lunch at as well (just don’t expect much choice on a weekend visit, which is when our family went and only one place was open, but that may have been due to the holiday season as well).

Century Park bean bag toss Century Park bocce

On the Saturday of the last weekend of the exhibit, March 19, the Photography Space will be hosting a Family Fun Closing Weekend Celebration. Not only will the Wildlife Learning Center present their exotic rescue animals, but there will also be face painting, storytime for babies and toddlers, a musical performance by Move ‘n Play Music, and a meet-and-greet and book signing by Awkward Family Photo creators. See website for specific schedule and more information.

I would love to hear about any experience you have with The Annenberg Space for Photography!

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