Rodeos and Abandoned Landscapes at Annual Documentary Photo Exhibit
Frank Van Riper knows how to pick ‘em. The veteran photographer (and, full disclosure, my wedding photographer from more than a decade ago) has curated the sixth installment of the annual documentary photography exhibit at Glen Echo's Photoworks, “Mirror to the World.” As usual, the five photographers he’s tapped have all produced notable work.
Keith Hans, a retired Air Force officer, uses high-detail aerial photography to document the site of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. Meanwhile, using lively color, Paul Sharratt of Takoma Park photographed the J Bar W Rodeo in Union Bridge, Md. (second from bottom)—a full-on western event less than 60 miles from D.C., complete with bucking bulls, sheep-riding, and a wincing cowboy being attended to while lying on the ground.
With his black-and-white photographs of New York City street tableaux (second from top), Eli Koppel channels Garry Winogrand (whose work currently happens to be on view at the National Gallery of Art). A foray into color produces an ethereal view of a girdered tower that resembles the works of Corinne Vionnet, who layers dozens of found tourist images on top of each other to produce hazy, pastel-hued composites.
D.C.-based photographer Eric Johnson came upon the inspiration for his series when a downtown Waffle Shop shut its doors before he had a chance to photograph it in action. Since then, Johnson has traveled widely to document down-home restaurants in moody black and white, from Ben’s Chili Bowl to Montreal’s Gibeau Orange Julep, with its landmark orange, several stories high. Of special note is Johnson’s image of Nathan’s Coney Island (bottom)—a loving portrayal of the place’s old-fashioned signage and the two police officers standing casually out front.
But the most impressive work in the exhibit comes from Lisa Tyson Ennis of Lubec, Maine, a spot near the U.S.-Canada border. The photographer documented weirs—low-tech but elaborately constructed barriers that have been used for generations by fishermen—in U.S. and Canadian waters. The weirs she photographs are largely disused, standing as a symbol of over-fishing and long-term economic distress.
Visually, Ennis’ images are mesmerizing. Her fine-detailed, black-and-white portrayals of fencing and netting are delicately chiaroscuro-ed and lovingly arranged in their geometry—an homage to the work of Michael Kenna and, yes, Van Riper and his wife/photographic partner Judith Goodman.
Even more striking are Ennis’ images of a settlement abandoned 50 years ago (top). If the fragile, tumbledown cabins don’t grab you, then the artist’s narrow depth of field will, fuzzing the background to add a dash of surrealism and make these real-life settings look like they were constructed from toy miniatures by the photographer David Levinthal.
Through May 5 at Photoworks Gallery, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. Sat 1-4 and Sun 1-8.