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The Smithsonian is partnering with FotoDC for its annual FotoWeekDC Nov. 11–19. Seven Smithsonian museums have exhibitions on view or events taking place during this week that will appeal to photography lovers.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a premium partner with FotoDC, a partnership that began in 2013. As part of FotoWeekDC, the museum is bringing two renowned photographers to Washington, D.C. Veteran National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb will present a talk titled “Stranger in a Strange Land” Monday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. One of only four female staff photographers, she is known for breaking through barriers and lifting a curtain on hidden societies. Cobb has captured fascinating glimpses of worlds such as Japan’s secret Geisha culture and the cloistered lives of Saudi Arabian women and is known for her landmark 2003 story “21st Century Slavery” that exposed the tragedy of human trafficking. This program is cosponsored by the American Society of Media Photographers. It is free and open to the public, but pre-registration at https://store.asmp.org/store/items/detail/item/3683 is required.
Artist Abelardo Morell will present a talk titled “The Universe Next Door” Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m., as part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s annual Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture series. Morell, a Boston-based artist born in Havana is best known for his images made with a camera obscura. Using techniques developed in the ancient world to project an outdoor scene onto the walls of a darkened room, Morell creates a natural optical phenomenon that he then captures with a large-format camera, as seen in “Camera Obscura Image of Manhattan View Looking West in Empty Room” (1996) that is part of the museum’s permanent collection and is on view in its third-floor galleries. The lecture is free; tickets are available in the museum’s G Street lobby beginning at 6 p.m.
Additional information about these programs is available on the museum’s website at americanart.si.edu.
National Portrait Gallery
“The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now” focuses on the psychological impact and consequences of modern warfare on those who serve. The exhibition includes more than 50 objects that convey the reality of the modern soldier within the context of a culture that has, in many ways, normalized warfare.
The exhibition is a continuation of the “Portraiture Now” series, devoted to bringing visibility to formal developments in the field of portraiture. Six featured artists offer an emotional and psychological perspective of battle and its repercussions: Ashley Gilbertson, Tim Hetherington, Louie Palu, Stacy Pearsall, Emily Prince and Vincent Valdez. Through portraits of deployed soldiers in combat and off duty and representations of empty bedrooms and of lives lost, these artists forge a stronger connection to the personal ramifications of war and reveal deeper perspectives on the lives affected. It is on view through Jan. 28, 2018.
“Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” is the first major exhibition on the star in the United States. The exhibition showcases the life and influence of the actress in more than 45 objects, including correspondence, film clips and photographs. Among the images are many of Dietrich at various points in her life taken by notable photographers including Irving Penn.
Dietrich brought androgyny to the silver screen through her roles in movies such as Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932) and Seven Sinners (1940). The biggest Hollywood star at a time when “talkies” were still new, Dietrich challenged strictly limited notions of femininity through her lifestyle and fashion. She once stated, “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” Relying on her good looks, striking voice and witty intelligence, Dietrich achieved international fame during her long career. It is on view through April 15, 2018.
“Antebellum Portraits by Mathew Brady” traces the trajectory of Mathew Brady’s early career through daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and salted paper prints in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. The museum’s Daguerreian Gallery is the only permanent exhibition space in Washington dedicated to showcasing examples of photographic portraiture from the dawn of photography.
This exhibition showcases the Portrait Gallery’s many fine examples of Brady’s pre-Civil War portraiture. Among the highlights is an ambrotype of western explorer and civil engineer Frederick West Lander—the first portrait to be purchased with funds from the photography-acquisitions endowment established by the Joseph L. and Emily K. Gidwitz Memorial Foundation. Also of interest is the photograph of presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln—a rare, large-format, salted paper print from 1860, purchased with the support of the Alan and Lois Fern Acquisition Fund.
The exhibition also features historic engravings and several advertising broadsides Brady used to market his portrait enterprise. It is on view through June 3, 2018.
“One Life: Sylvia Plath” is the first exploration of the poet and writer’s visual imagination in an art and history museum. The exhibition reveals how Plath shaped her identity as she came of age as a writer in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The exhibition highlights Plath’s struggle to understand the traumas in her life—the early death of her father, psychiatric breakdown in college and collapse of her marriage—and to navigate the societal pressures placed on women as she made her way in the professional world.
The exhibition features a carefully selected array of images and objects from the Mortimer Rare Book Collection and the Smith College Historic Clothing Collection at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington and private collections. It is on view through May 20, 2018.
The upcoming exhibition “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” will present nearly 100 representations of laborers to explore the role of working people in the formation, self-definition and development of the United States. Featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints and time-based media, the multifaceted exhibition offers a powerful visual history of American labor. Historic images of mill girls in factories, newsboys on city streets and proud artisans and craftsmen appear alongside contemporary images of working-class men and women.
Spanning the course of American history, “The Sweat of Their Face” encourages viewers to reflect on the conditions and repercussions of labor, particularly with regard to evolving relationships between those who work and those who benefit from work. At the same time, the exhibition offers insight into how American artists have refashioned the European portrait tradition to depict workers in compelling new ways. Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange, Jacob Lawrence and several other renowned American artists are represented, along with individuals whose names have long been forgotten but who reemerge as a result of their work.
The fully bilingual (English and Spanish) exhibition examines the intersections between work, art and social history, and will be on view Nov. 3 through Sept. 3, 2018.
Additional information about these exhibitions is available on the museum’s website at npg.si.edu.
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.
Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at anacostia.si.edu.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at
National Museum of African American History and Culture
“Everyday Beauty” features 100 images and rarely seen films from the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s growing photography and moving-image collection.
The exhibition uses the lenses of history, culture and community to reflect themes of self-representation, social responsibility and resilience. African Americans have long recognized the power of images and used them to document moments—from the monumental to everyday. Photography and film have also been used to challenge negative perceptions, demonstrate the strength of the human spirit and promote social reform. These selected works highlight the beauty of everyday occasions and feature photography and films by known and lesser-known artists.
“Everyday Beauty” is divided into five themes:
- Self-presentation highlights how African Americans used photography to challenge negative perceptions of themselves. Photographs are presented in a variety of formats—tintypes, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, postcards, family snapshots and vintage prints—and highlight black people’s long-standing engagement with visual culture.
- Courtship and Family recognizes families are a critical part of any community and have been an essential source of strength for African Americans who have faced discrimination and persevered during some of the bleakest and brightest moments in American history.
- Faith and Activism focuses on how African Americans used the power of faith, determination and formal and informal institutions to help move the dial of justice forward.
- Education and Uplift explores the ways African American communities went to great lengths to receive an education and challenge the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
- Work and Play serves as a visual reminder of universal human experiences while helping shape understandings of the social conditions surrounding black life. African Americans experienced levity and the chance to enjoy life’s simple moments, even in the midst of adversity.
Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at nmaahc.si.edu.
National Museum of Natural History
From more than 26,000 entries submitted to the 2017 Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Awards, 60 images were selected to showcase the extraordinary work of outdoor photographers in 59 countries. United by their creativity and technical skill with a camera, these artists of all ages and experience share visions of nature to inspire its preservation.
Named for nature photographer and conservationist, Windland Smith Rice, the 22nd annual Nature’s Best Photography Awards exhibition presents fine art prints accompanied by HD video. The exhibition is on view through September 2018.
Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at naturalhistory.si.edu.
National Museum of American History
“Celebration: Snapshots of African American Communities” is a display of 22 photographs that reflect the diversity of the African American experience. The photos come from two collections in the museum’s Archives Center that depict special occasions and everyday life in African American communities: the Scurlock Studio Collection and the Fournet Drug Store. The exhibition is on view indefinitely.
Additional information about this exhibition is available on the museum’s website at americanhistory.si.edu.
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