Smithsonian Participates in FotoWeekDC 2015

Nine Smithsonian Museums Currently Have Photography Exhibitions on View
October 29, 2015
News Release

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The Smithsonian is partnering with FotoWeekDC for its annual FotoWeekDC Festival Nov. 7–15. Exhibitions at nine Smithsonian museums will be on view during the festival and beyond.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty” is drawn entirely from the extensive holdings of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. On display are 146 photographs from the museum’s permanent collection, including the debut of 100 photographs recently donated to the museum by The Irving Penn Foundation. The exhibition presents a number of previously unseen or never exhibited photographs. Also on view for the first time will be Super 8 mm films of Penn in Morocco, made by his wife Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, that add a vivid picture of the artist at work.

The exhibition features work from all stages of Penn’s career—street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the American South from the early 1940s, celebrity portraits, fashion photographs, still lifes and more private studio images. Penn’s pictures reveal a taste for stark simplicity whether he was photographing celebrities, fashion models, still lifes or people in remote places of the world.

The exhibition is on view through March 20, 2016, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.

National Air and Space Museum

“Art of the Airport Tower” takes you on a photographic journey to airports in the United States and around the globe. Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo explores the varied forms and functions of air traffic control towers throughout aviation history and interprets them as monumental abstractions, symbols of cultural expression and testimonies of technological change. These 50 images bring a heightened awareness to the simple beauty of the airport tower and a call for their preservation in the airport landscape.

The exhibition is on view from Nov. 11 through November 2016, at the National Air and Space Museum, located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W.

National Museum of American History

 “Continuity and Change: Fifty Years of Museum History” is an exhibition of new digital prints from negatives and transparencies by Smithsonian photographers, primarily drawn from the Smithsonian Institution Archives and other images by Institution staff. Through photographs and explanatory captions, this exhibition—organized in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Museum of American History—traces the history of the museum from its inception through 2014. 

The exhibition is on view indefinitely at the National Museum of American History, located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets.

National Portrait Gallery

“Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs 1859–1872”

Considered America’s first modern photographer, just as the Civil War is considered the first modern war, Alexander Gardner created dramatic and vivid photographs of battlefields and played a crucial role in the transformation of American culture by injecting a sobering note of realism to American photography.

The first section of the exhibition highlights Gardner’s Civil War photographs, and his role as President Abraham Lincoln’s preferred photographer. Gardner photographed the president many times, recording the impact of the war on his face. Among these images is the “cracked-plate” portrait, a photograph that is arguably the most iconic image of Lincoln.

Also in the exhibition are Gardner’s landscapes of the American West and portraits of American Indians. These document the course of American expansion as postwar settlers moved westward, challenged by geography and Indian tribes resistant to losing their ancestral homelands. Gardner’s landscapes are evocative studies of almost limitless horizons, giving a sense of the emptiness of western space. These are contrasted with his detailed portraits of Indian chiefs and tribal delegations.

The exhibition is on view through March 13, 2016.

“Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze”

In a world consumed by personal and celebrity image making, the National Portrait Gallery considers how personalities are constructed with “Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze.” Many of the 53 works of art in the exhibition are masterful photographs, such as Todd Glaser’s panoramic image of surfer Kelly Slater or Annie Leibovitz’s classic depiction of Renée Fleming on stage. Paintings, prints and time-based media works are also represented. Painter Will Cotton represents Katy Perry as an airbrushed confection, while Colin Davidson offers an introspective portrait of Brad Pitt. Video artist Bo Gehring provides a personal view of Esperanza Spalding listening to music that inspires her own work. And Luke Dubois pulls from the Internet and his own software to give a generative, ever-changing double portrait of Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

The exhibition is on view through July 16, 2016.

“Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals”

By assembling teams of photographers and securing permission for them to accompany Union forces in the field, Mathew Brady produced an extraordinary visual record of the Civil War. But there was more to his efforts during the war: his New York and Washington galleries did a brisk business creating studio portraits of the ever-changing roster of Union generals. Countless generals and Union officers assuming a new command or receiving a promotion eagerly posed for large-format portraits due to the burgeoning popularity of inexpensive, calling card-size photographs known as cartes de visite.

The exhibition is on view through May 8, 2016.

The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place–Chinatown Metrorail station.

National Museum of African Art

“Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria” showcases the work of noted Nigerian photographer Chief S.O. Alonge, the first indigenous photographer of the Royal Court of Benin, in conjunction with royal arts from the Benin kingdom.

The collection of historic photographs was captured on Kodak glass-plate negatives and documents more than 50 years of the ritual, pageantry and regalia of the obas (kings), their wives and retainers. Alonge’s photographs reveal a unique insider’s view of the Benin royal family and court ceremonies, including historic visits by Queen Elizabeth (1956), foreign dignitaries, traditional rulers, political leaders and celebrities. The collection preserves an important historical record of Benin arts and culture during the periods of British colonial rule and the transition to Nigerian independence during the 1950s and 1960s.

The exhibition is on view through Jan. 10, 2016.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Kicking off the countdown to its grand opening next fall, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will come alive for three nights this month as the façade of the building will be illuminated with moving images in a spectacular display. The event, “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom,” takes place Nov. 16–18 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event pays tribute to three important milestones in African American history: ratification of the 13th Amendment, which officially ended the institution of slavery (1865), passage of the Voting Rights Act (Aug. 6, 1965) and the end of the Civil War (surrender at Appomattox, Va., April 8, 1865).

Featuring state-of-the-art digital projection imagery, the south (facing Madison Drive) and west (facing 15th Street and the Washington Monument) façades will be transformed into a five-story-tall, one-block-long 3-D canvas. The video display will be seven minutes long and run continuously all three nights.

The video mapping will be best viewed from the mound area of the Washington Monument and the knoll area adjacent to Madison Drive, at the corner of 14th Street, facing the south side of the museum. The north and east sides, while not being video mapped, will be adorned with a special lighting treatment and static images that will add to the dramatic display designed to bring the building to life.

Smithsonian Castle

The earliest-known photograph of the Smithsonian Castle is currently on view in the building’s Great Hall. The photograph was taken in 1850 during the Castle’s construction and shows the two completed wings of the building: The east wing housed the lecture hall, laboratories and home for the Secretary of the Smithsonian; the west wing contained the library and the reading room. The central portion of the building, now called the Great Hall, was still empty and would remain so until 1855. At the time of this photograph, only two of the Castle’s nine towers were completed. The crane in the image rises over the North Tower, which would eventually soar 140 feet above the National Mall. The carriage porch at the front of the building would not be completed until late 1851. Architect James Renwick designed the building in a medieval revival style, which was meant to identify the Smithsonian as an educational institution.

Brothers William and Frederick Langenheim of Philadelphia took the photograph using a new process they developed in 1849 and called hyalotype (from the Greek hyalos, meaning glass, and typos, meaning image or impression). This process produced a glass negative instead of the paper negative of the talbotype process. The glass negative could then be used to print either paper photographs or glass lantern slides. Hyalotypes were highly detailed and accurate, while talbotypes usually resulted in soft, slightly fuzzy images due to the coarse paper they were printed on. The exposure time for hyalotypes was about one minute, which made the process well suited for architectural studies but impractical for portraiture. The image of the Castle was part of a set of 126 views published by the brothers in 1850. The exhibition is on view indefinitely.

National Museum of Natural History

“Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Presents: The Best of the Best.”

The National Museum of Natural History presents “Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Presents: The Best of the Best.” This temporary exhibition features more than 100 large-format prints selected from nearly 500,000 images submitted over 20 years by photographers from around the globe for the annual Nature’s Best Photography: Windland Smith Rice International Awards. Photos in the exhibition include dramatic landscapes, exciting wildlife and surprising glimpses of Earth’s icy peaks to mysterious ocean depths.

The exhibition is on view through October 2016.

“Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed”

 “Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed” combines stunning photographs with sound and lighting effects to take visitors on a memorable journey through some of Iceland’s most breathtaking and mysterious natural landscapes.

The exhibition conveys that Iceland is a geologically active wonder, with diverse and magnificent landscapes. The primordial quality of Icelandic landscapes offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the planet was formed and continues to evolve.

The 41 photographs in the exhibition were taken by Feodor Pitcairn, award-winning photographer and cinematographer. A small selection of specimens from the museum’s mineral sciences and botany departments will complement the photographic display with unique geological and botanical formations from Iceland’s evolving landscapes. The exhibit includes a lava sample and images from the 2014 Bárdarbunga volcanic eruption. The exhibition also features poetry by Icelander Ari Trausti Gudmundsson, renowned geophysicist, author and poet.

The exhibition is on view through April 2017.

“Into Africa”

The National Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Society, with support from the World Wildlife Fund, have joined to present “Into Africa,” an exhibition featuring the works of one of National Geographic’s most prolific and visionary nature photographers, Frans Lanting.

The exhibition takes visitors on a grand tour through the wonders of African landscapes as seen through Frans Lanting’s lens. His images and stories create an enduring vision of the continent and demonstrate what is at stake for its wildlife and wild places.

More than 60 of Lanting’s images were selected for display within a 4,250-square-foot exhibition hall. Stunning videos shot and produced by Lanting’s wife, videographer and partner, Chris Eckstrom, accompany the photographs and share untold stories of exploration from their fieldwork in Africa. The videos provide in-depth focal stories about chimpanzees in Senegal and the parade of animals that come to a water hole in Namibia.

The exhibition is on view through summer 2016.

“Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places”

 “Wilderness Forever” is a juried photography competition that celebrates the majesty, diversity and value of the nation’s wilderness areas. More than 5,000 entries were submitted by professional, amateur and youth photographers from across the nation and world. Fifty winning entries are displayed as awe-inspiring large-format prints. The exhibition also features a fossil skull of Bistahieversor sealeyi, a species of tyrannosaur discovered on wilderness lands; interactive touch-screen maps of wilderness; and stories that highlight the importance of protecting wilderness.

The exhibition is on view through late fall 2015.

Anacostia Community Museum

Through images and narrative, including graphically stylized commentary, “Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington, D.C.,” tells of the personal experiences of Panamanians and Zonians living in and commuting and navigating between the nation’s capital area and Panama.

The exhibition uses as a historical backdrop the formal ties established between the U.S. and Panama since the California Gold Rush through the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal in 2014. In addition to new research and contributions from Washington, D.C.–area residents with varying ties to Panama, the bilingual presentation incorporates the museum’s archival material and images from a variety of sources, including donations from community members, the collections of other Smithsonian units and the Smithsonian affiliate Museo de Canal Interoceánico de Panama.

The exhibition is on view indefinitely.

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