Museum of Photographic Arts

Pin Icon
1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
|
Open:
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursday – Sunday)
The MOPA offers visitors a premium collection of visual arts with a dedication to engage the community. 2024 brings new acquisitions and a returning favorite.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Museum of Photographic Arts
Expressive Works
What to Expect
Bundle & Save
What to See
Parking
You Should Know
Stay Nearby

Highlights

Exhibits / Attractions
Tickets
Parking
Tips
Exhibits / Attractions
Tickets
Parking
Tips

Preservation & Presentation of the Visual Arts Through Photography, Film & Video

Saving Grace Climate Change Photography by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic ArtsRobert Downey Jr High Def Video by Robert Wilson at the Museum of Photographic Arts

I really think that art of any type, whether it be painting, sculpture or photographs, represents cultural value that is critical to the growth and education of its home community.

Located among the picturesque gardens of San Diego's Balboa Park, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) collects, preserves, and presents expressive works of photography, film, and video. Its mission is to not only engage with the broadest possible audience but to educate and inspire them as well!

The museum hosts film screenings in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater. Another unique educational feature of the Museum of Photographic Arts is the Dubois Library that allows visitors to peruse over 20,000 photography-related items.

During your visit, you can take a break and relax in the café. Whether you are looking for a souvenir for yourself or a gift for a photography enthusiast, the gift shop offers cameras, books on photography, postcards, and posters, as well as apparel and accessories. There are also restrooms available for your convenience.

Looking at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Looking at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Coming Together with the San Diego Museum of Art

2023’s merger with the San Diego Museum of Art promised a thriving future filled with engaging exhibits that celebrate the history, diversity, and community of the photographic arts.

In addition to a permanent collection of over 7,000 images spanning two centuries, MOPA@SDMA also features a series of temporary exhibits centered around a unifying theme.

Thanks to the merger, visitors can now see a further range of mediums (painting, photography, prints, and sculptures) for a uniquely MOPA@SDMA experience!

Local Tips
Learn With MOPA
MOPA offer classes, workshops, and resources on their website for people of all ages to grow their understanding of photography and film.

Explore the winding pathways and gorgeous landscapes as you tour Balboa Park's Japanese Friendship Garden. With Todd as your guide, see what this scenic and relaxing Go City San Diego pass attraction has to offer.

Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden

What to Expect at MOPA

Entrance to the Museum of Photographic Arts
Entrance to the Museum of Photographic Arts

After you enter the museum via the El Prado Entrance, you will find yourself in the Copley Atrium. Here you will find the information booth, where you can find out more about the museum.

Beyond the atrium is the Downing Reception Area. From this point, you can turn left and follow Las Patronas Theater Ramp to the Jacobs Theater, or you can continue on to the exhibits. There may be a photographic exhibit on display along the ramp.

The museum features five individual galleries, plus the Murray and Elaine Galinson Installation Space. Among the galleries’ you will find pieces belonging to the current exhibition as well as the museum's permanent collection.

MOPA’s focus on creating a space that inspires the community through visual thinking continues through its dedication to diversity and the moving image.

Art Lovers Bundle & SAVE!
San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art
Experience art from around the world at San Diego's oldest art institution! Visitors enjoy 19th and 20th Century American paintings, in addition to Spanish, Italian and Asian artwork. Don't miss the sculpture garden and floral displays!
Buy Now
Local Tips
What kind of deals does the Go City San Diego pass offer?

The Go City San Diego pass gives visitors the ability to save up to 55% on attraction admissions.

Combine our exclusive 5% discount to save even more and consider the All-Inclusive pass to maximize your savings. Plus the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

What to See at MOPA

Saving Grace Photographic Art by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Saving Grace Photographic Art by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts

The permanent collection at the museum features work by over 850 photographers. These include some of the most prominent figures in 19th- and 20th-century photography, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Clarence White, and Francis Frith.

The pieces represent a sample of different techniques and styles across various genres of photography, although there is a particular emphasis on photojournalism, social documentary, and mid-20th century photography from Soviet Russia.

Lady Gaga Mademoiselle High Def Video by Robert Wilson at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Lady Gaga Mademoiselle High Def Video by Robert Wilson at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Permanent Exhibits Rotate

Not all pieces from the permanent collection are on display at any one time. Every year, the museum also prominently features one or more temporary exhibits. There is always a common theme that unites all the photographs in a particular exhibition.

Sometimes they are all works by the same photographer, or they could be works from the same country. The photographs in the exhibition may all come from a certain time period or feature a particular type of subject matter.

Past exhibitions have included the following portraits by Bern Schwartz, contemporary photography from Australia, and "Hidden Worlds," featuring historical and contemporary photographs of objects invisible to the naked eye.

Loving Suda House Exhibit at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Loving Suda House Exhibit at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Explorations: 17th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition

This year’s theme - Exploration - challenged K - 12 students across San Diego and Tijuana to explore their creativity.

Once again, through the medium of photography and video, the young artists proved there’s no limit when one approaches “discovery with eyes wide open.”

Personally, I find this exhibit is perfect for families! Hurry though as the exhibit is set to run only through April 7th, 2024.

Morrie Camhi: The Jews of Greece

An exploration of Morrie Camhi’s intimate and engaging visual storytelling, in this exhibit Camhi focused his lens on the Greek Jews of Thessaloniki, and took an intimate look into their lives. Some of his subjects included a dry-goods seller in Trikkala, a hat seller in Larissa, and survivors of the Holocaust.

Through Camhi’s lens, visitors will get a glimpse into the daily lives of the Jewish men, women, and children from across Greece in the 1980s.

The exhibit runs through September 15th, 2024.

1984 Polaroid Photograph by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts
1984 Polaroid Photograph by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Picture This: Recent Acquisitions

‘Picture This’ is a selection from over 1,000 photographs gifted to the museums over the last 3 years.

Included in the exhibit, guests will also see some of the recently added images, videos, and media as part of the recent MOPA and SDMA merger.

Divided into three elements, Picture This treats guests to view the additions through the lens of Portraiture, Abstraction/Manipulation, and Modernism.

You can visit this exhibit through August 4th, 2024.

Gao Xingjian High Def Video by Robert Wilson at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Gao Xingjian High Def Video by Robert Wilson at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Virtual Exhibits

Guests can see a sampling of both past and exclusive online exhibits with the museum's virtual exhibit selections.

The Current Collection Includes:

  • Nagasaki Journey Archive: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata
  • Facing the Past: Portraits by Edward S. Curtis
  • Dorothea Lange

Educational Programs & More

Brass Camera Lens Owned by Julia Margaret Cameron at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Brass Camera Lens Owned by Julia Margaret Cameron at the Museum of Photographic Arts

The Museum of Photographic Arts features educational programs for all age levels, including youth, adults, and senior citizens.

MOPA has held a juried exhibition featuring photographs by young people in the community every year since 2006. Weekly camps for grade schoolers take place during the summer months in which children have the option to learn about photography, animation, or special effects.

Adults and seniors can also take advantage of art talks and photography courses. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater features film festivals and other special screening events featuring pieces of cinema that are compelling and unique.

In partnership with the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, MOPA presents Memories at the Museum, a program of special tours for people with dementia and an accompanying family member that happens quarterly.

For those seeking more information or conducting independent research, the Edmund L. and Nancy K. Dubois Library features an extensive collection of educational items related to photography. In addition to books, these include exhibition catalogs, magazines, monographs, and encyclopedias.

If you need assistance, staff members are available to help whenever the library is open.

Featured Hotel
The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows
Outdoor Pool at the Lafayette Hotel Swim Club and Bungalows
Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Boutique
Boutique
Families
Families
3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
Feast your senses and experience the glamor of 1980s luxury at the stylized Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club, & Bungalow in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood.
Prices Starting at $127
Check Availability

Parking

EV Charging
EV Charging
Free Parking
Free Parking
Lot Parking
Lot Parking
RV Parking
RV Parking
Discount Museum Tickets
Save up to 50% with Go City San Diego

Know Before You Go

When planning a visit to the Museum of Photographic Arts, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Across the Street from the Museum of Photographic Arts
Across the Street from the Museum of Photographic Arts

MOPA Location and Hours

MOPA is located in beautiful Balboa Park, across from the Lily Pond at 1649 El Prado, San Diego, California.

The normal museum and gift shop hours are Thursday - Sunday from 11 AM - 5 PM.

Lobby at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Lobby at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Entry Fee

The Museum of Photographic Arts is ‘pay what you wish’. However, there is a suggested donation of $10.

Balboa Park Parking lot at the Veterans Museum
Balboa Park Parking lot at the Veterans Museum

Parking

During peak hours or special events, parking near the museum may be limited.

Additional parking lots are available throughout Balboa Park. Between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., a free tram service is available between various points throughout the park.

Outdoor Pool at the Lafayette Hotel Swim Club and Bungalows
Outdoor Pool at the Lafayette Hotel Swim Club and Bungalows

Stay Nearby

The Lafayette Hotel is one of our favorite hotels in the area and there’s no secret why - it’s the perfect marriage of classic San Diego history and recently renovated modernity.

You’ll immediately feel you’ve stepped into another world the second you step foot into the lobby’s glass atrium. Vibrant colors, patterns, and decor were curated for one purpose - to impress.

This hotel is a work of art - the perfect ending to any day at MOPA.

NE 577 Douglas A 1H Skyraider on the USS Midway
NE 577 Douglas A 1H Skyraider on the USS Midway

Beyond the Museum

Make the most out of San Diego’s museums with a Go City San Diego All-Inclusive pass.

Whether your favorite museums house beautiful artworks or world history, there’s plenty to discover. From the Museum of Contemporary Art to the USS Midway Museum - get access to these museums and more.

Use our exclusive discount code - GVSD5OFF - for a discount on the pass.

Reading About Julia Margaret Cameron at the Museum of Photographic Arts
Reading About Julia Margaret Cameron at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Accommodating Groups & Tours

The museum welcomes large groups of 8 to 30 participants during certain days and times.

Self-guided tours are available for free, but there is a fee for facilitated tours. One adult chaperon is required for every 15 youths.

Schools and teachers wishing to bring a group of students to the museum may qualify for a scholarship to fund tour fees, transportation, etc.

Visitors with Special Needs

Accommodations for visitors with disabilities include an electronic low vision magnifier, American Sign Language interpreted tours, and accessible parking and facilities. Contact the museum in advance to arrange accommodations.

ASL interpreters must be requested at least three weeks in advance.

The Water Holds Me by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts
The Water Holds Me by Suda House at the Museum of Photographic Arts

The Library

The library is only open by appointment, and only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Looking to Save on Tickets?
Save on Tickets
Explore all that San Diego has to offer & save up to 55% on attractions
This Month's Forecast
62°F / 76°F
Partly Cloudy in June
Jul
66°F / 81°F
Sunny in July
Aug
68°F / 83°F
Sunny in August
Sep
66°F / 82°F
Sunny in September
Discount Museum Tickets
Save up to 50% with Go City San Diego

Stay Nearby

The Westgate Hotel
Near Cruise Port
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Westgate Hotel
from $169 / night
View Hotel
Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
from $162 / night
View Hotel
The Wayfarer San Diego
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
The Wayfarer San Diego
from $236 / night
View Hotel
Tower 23 Hotel
Beachfront
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Tower 23 Hotel
from $199 / night
View Hotel
Show more San Diego Hotels >>
Tours & Adventures
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Discounts Available
Learn More
San Diego 4-Hour Talking GoCar Tour
San Diego 4-Hour Talking GoCar Tour
$138 per person
Buy Now
Looking for Something Different?
More Balboa Park Museums