Frank Van Riper is known in the D.C. area for his writings on photography. Now, the photography teacher at Photoworks studio has curated his own exhibition, “Mirror to the World: Documentary Photography 2013.” Three artists make the strongest impressions. Michael Lang spent eight months capturing the unguarded moments of drag queens; he photographs the performers’ intense preparation efforts in black and white while capturing their on-stage personas in color, a transformation that cleverly echoes The Wizard of Oz. Christine Pearl documents vanishing rural demolition-derby subculture, a project that is at once a worthy piece of social history and a visual feast, featuring billows of white smoke, barrel-necked drivers, and impromptu celebrations on top of cars. But of the artists on view, the most winningly enigmatic is Fred Zafran (shown), who photographs “unplanned encounters” on the streets of an unknown town, which only adds to the mystery. Zafran’s comfort zone is a demimonde of dramatic footprints, darkened Hopperesque windows, and blank planar surfaces that are so low-lit it’s sometimes hard to tell when he’s photographing in black and white or color. This small selection suggests that Zafran has distinct ability to capture a scene’s lurking unease.
The exhibition is on view Sundays and Mondays, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., to April 28 at Photoworks, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Free. (301) 634-2274. glenechophotoworks.org.