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Laura Morton
The Social Stage

San Francisco, California has a thriving culture of what is often referred to as high society. This small group of wealthy people attends numerous glamorous social events with each other throughout the year to financially support local cultural institutions and other charity organizations.

The galas to celebrate the openings of the opera, symphony, ballet and those in support of local museums are some of the most high profile events for people who wish to be a part of such society. These elaborate events give participants a chance to dress up, mingle with one another and generally see and be seen on the social stage. While some donors prefer to keep a low profile, those who attend the galas generally do so to put themselves on display and be part of the scene. There is a subtle social hierarchy in place that dictates which families and individuals are at the top.

Such an outright display of wealth may seem ostentatious to many outsiders, but the cultural institutions and other charity organizations in the city rely on the patronage of these donors for the majority of their funding. The parties keep patrons involved in the organization and facilitate making them feel part of special community, which encourages them to continue to donate the large sums of money that are necessary to keep these organizations running.

In addition providing a look into the world of this particular group of the privileged class, I was drawn to photographing this community because I’ve found the nature of these parties brings several facets of human nature to the surface. There is a theatricality that is intrinsic to most who choose to be a part of this world and I’ve worked to examine how people behave when they put themselves on display in this public arena. I’ve been working to examine themes such as anxiety, ambition, envy, pride and the concern many of us have about the impression we make on others.

Laura Morton

Laura Morton, born in 1984, is a freelance photojournalist currently based in San Francisco, California. She grew up in Maryland and then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Laura graduated in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism. After completing photography internships with The Seattle Times and San Francisco Chronicle, Laura started her freelance career in San Francisco where she continued to work as a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some of her other freelance clients have included The Wall Street Journal, Corbis Images and The Los Angeles Times. Laura’s project ‘The Social Stage’ was awarded in the 2012 PDN Photo Annual and was a winner of the 2013 Hearst 8 X 10 Photography Biennial. In 2012, she was selected for a scholarship masterclass organized by Look3 Festival of the Photograph with photographer Bruce Gilden. Laura is also a winner of the 2013 Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers exchange.


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from Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00am/1.00pm - 3.00pm/7.00pm
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Special free opening
Friday October 12, 9.00pm