Vision Quest

The Oakland Museum of California helped inspire Joel Flory’s lifelong love of photography—and continues to influence him today

Artistic creation is a guiding force in Joel Flory’s life, both professionally and personally.

Flory grew up in San Leandro and spent much of his youth frequenting OMCA, along with other local museums and galleries. “My mom would pack us into our old Volvo station wagon, and we’d tour the Bay Area to see art. The Museum was a special place for me as a kid. We’d spend hours there and have picnics in the gardens. It was part of the fabric of my childhood.”

These sojourns inspired his love of photography, a passion that continues today. Following a 10-year stint as a professional wedding photographer, Flory cofounded VSCO, an Oakland-based art and technology company, in 2011.  “I was always looking for ways I could have a bigger impact on the world,” he says. “VSCO is a company for creators; we empower people to create through photography and long-form content, and to share that content and engage with other creators. We’re about having a voice but also highlighting what is happening within the community.”

A sense of community is part of what appeals to Flory about OMCA. He’s been a Member since his oldest daughter was born eight years ago; he and his wife also have a five-year-old daughter. “They’ve really grown up in the Museum, learning so much about the history of what we see around us,” he says. 

Flory considers Friday Nights @ OMCA “my favorite place and moment in the world,” and lauds recent exhibitions on the Black Panthers and sneaker culture. He is looking forward to Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing, citing Lange as someone who inspired him to try photography.

“There is this connection in her photos; it feels like you are peering into someone’s soul. It’s not just what is happening in that scene,” says Flory. “As a photographer, that was always the most important thing to me—to make a connection with the people I was photographing and to tell a story beyond the image.”

Flory believes art that unites people is vitally important, now more than ever.

“Shared understanding and empathy is what the world really needs today,” he says. “The Museum supports members of the Oakland community by enriching them, feeding their souls, and bringing them together. You can’t put a price on that.”

Want to share your OMCA story? Contact the Membership Office.

Photography: Terry Lorant.

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