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Business Spotlight: The Photographer's Eye — Providing a View from a Different Lens

The Photographer’s Eye on Grand Avenue.

The Photographer’s Eye — a gallery, photographer’s collective, dark room space, research library, and learning space — is a decades-long dream come true for Escondido resident Donna Cosentino,who opened the space in July 2018. 

What once was a law office owned and operated by Cosentino’s friend and fellow photographer, Carla deDominicis, is now a space for photographers from all levels to learn and hone their craft.

The space has hosted 26 shows since its opening. Even through COVID-19, Cosentino was able to host both outdoor and virtual shows, which were well-received. Since some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Cosentino is scheduling shows well into 2023. 

Aside from being the owner, she is the director and curator for the collective, which features 15 professional photographers from the region, who also play a big part in the space. Three times a year, the collective has an exhibition of work. These artists include, Terry Scott Allen, Robert Barry, Barbara Beck, Grant Brittain, Stephen Davis, Carla DeDominicis, Deb Hellman, Bob and Susan Hill, Emily Kim, Andrea Matthies, Brandy Sebastian, Tom Vancisin, Keiko Yamasaki, Bob Younger and Cosentino. 

Members of The Photographer’s Eye Collective.

The Collective members not only show their work in the space, they also volunteer as judges and teachers, and they help with events and promotions as well. “They are really the backbone,” Cosentino said. “They help with everything.”

Cosentino, who taught photography at Palomar College for 30 years, offers classes and workshops at The Photographer’s Eye for everyone from beginners to trained professionals. From landscape classes out on locations such as Death Valley, Carmel, or even Yosemite, to classes on dark room techniques and portfolio classes — Cosentino offers something for everyone. 

Her portfolio class will be starting mid-September at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. This class gives photographers some insight into how to select their best work to show when they are promoting themselves. At The Photographer’s Eye, Cosentino has set up a research library that includes several books by other artists that give photographers an idea how to best present themselves. 

The dark room space is also a bonus to San Diego photographers. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the dark room at The Photographer’s Eye is the only working dark room open to the public in San Diego at the present time. 

While digital photography is the most common form of photography these days, Cosentino said there has been a resurgence of film photography and alternative film processing. “There are a lot of antique processes,” she said. “Many folks are taking a step backwards and doing things like tin types, cyano, platinum, palladiums, and all kinds of historical processes.” 

She added that these techniques are a great way to experiment with digital photography and create really interesting works. 

The upcoming juried exhibition, “(s)Light of Hand,” will feature alternative photographic processes and works that have included alternative photo-based processes. It will be judged by the well-known photographer, Jill Enfield

Cosentino said it is her goal to have a gallery that shows “every kind of photography that you can possibly imagine.”

She has accomplished that with many of her exhibits that bring photography enthusiasts and novices into the space and she feels Escondido is the perfect place for this type of gallery.

“I live here and I really wanted to have a business here,” she said. 

Donna setting up a gallery exhibit.

She is connected to the community, not only through the gallery and her teaching, but is also a member of  MAGEC (Museum & Arts Growing Escondido Culture), an informal group whose purpose is to “grow and develop the goals of its participants by promoting Escondido’s vibrant arts, heritage and educational culture.” 

The Photographer’s Eye also participates in 2nd Saturday events and stays open longer on those Saturdays. 

Cosentino fell in love with photography in the dark room. As an art student in college, she found herself gravitating to the photographers who she felt were having a lot of fun in the photo department. In 1971, she took her first class. “From the moment I picked up the camera, I knew that all my art classes were going to feed into this,” she said.

She said seeing the print come up in the dark room was the moment that had her absolutely hooked on photography.

From there, Cosentino began a career as a documentary and street photographer. She also worked as a photojournalist for the Times-Advocate, shooting for stories and sports throughout San Diego. 

In addition to teaching at Palomar College, Cosentino curated several exhibits, managed the San Diego County Fair photography exhibition, the International Photography Show and ran a gallery in a former camera store in Escondido. 

When asked how she knows when she has captured the perfect shot, Cosentino replied, “You intuitively know when you’ve got it. When I print a photograph that makes me happy, I do a happy dance.”

The Photographer’s Eye is currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit and Cosentino has been promoting events that will help create a fund for scholarships for people who are interested in photography but cannot afford the classes. One event was a swap meet on September 4 that included vendors from around Escondido who sold, raffled and gave away local items to help start the fund. For more information on how to contribute to the fund, contact Cosentino at (760) 522-2170.

The Photographer’s Eye is located at 326 Grand Avenue. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday or by appointment. Appointments and tours can be arranged by calling (760) 522-2170. Follow the Photographer’s Eye on Facebook or Instagram.