Clayton Spada


Clayton Spada (American, born 1949) harbors a voracious sense of curiosity that drove him to navigate a dual-track professional calling as scientist and visual artist over the course of four decades. A well-published PhD research biologist, he worked on the cellular biology of ocular inflammatory responses and retinal diseases; though retired since 2014, he continues to author research papers. Spada’s artistic arc sprang from an undisciplined start in photography at age six with plastic Kodak Brownie and Starflash cameras, gradually morphing into a serious avocation, and by the time undergraduate studies rolled around, a nascent roster of exhibitions and published work. Undeterred by an established career in science, he returned to school in the mid-80s to pursue an MFA in photography. He went on to serve as Executive Director (three years) and as Director of Exhibitions (three years) of the non-profit Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, and also published NoMoPoMo: A Contemporary Artist’s Resource, a quarterly that cast an irreverent eye on the regional contemporary art scene over its four-year run.

Spada has enthusiastically embraced collaboration with other artists as a means of sparking new creative energy and growth, including co-founding The Legacy Project, a non-profit collective of six photographers that among other undertakings transformed an abandoned aircraft hangar into the world’s biggest camera obscura to create The Great Picture, the world’s largest gelatin silver image. As artist, curator, writer, and college-level educator having taught in the U.S. and China for over 20 years Spada continues exploring territory that straddles documentary to fine art, leveraging photography, film-making, digital multimedia, and sometimes mixed-media processes, to express his unbounded interest in…everything.

Along with exhibitions throughout the United States, and in Britain, Canada, China, Europe and Mexico, Spada’s works have been featured in photography textbooks, art and photography annuals, periodicals, and catalogs published in the US and abroad. Books include In Transition: MCAS El Toro, Past, Present and Future, The Edge of Air: The Legacy Project Photographs of the Final Days of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (Laguna Wilderness Press), and The Great Picture. Making the World’s Largest Photograph (Hudson Hills Press). His works are held in a number of institutional collections, including California Museum of Photography (UC Riverside), USC Doheny Libraries Special Collections, Fisher Museum of Art (USC), Griffin Museum (Winchester, MA), Laguna Art Museum (Laguna Beach, CA), and UC Irvine Libraries Special Collections and Archives.