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When you think of photographers who document their families, Sally Mann leaps to mind. Wisely, “Close to Home” chooses to spotlight a half-dozen other artists, most of whom are less widely known. Virginia Beahan’s photographs of her elderly mother, several of them with her eyes closed seemingly at the point of death, are gripping. Christopher Dawson offers cleverly stitched-together wide-field images in which family members sometimes appear more than once. Martina Lopez toys with the idea of ancestral authenticity by producing mythical family-history portraits that use a pastiche of anonymous, old-fashioned images. Carrie Will tweaks the Arbusian trope of twins by participating in her own dour images along with her identical sibling. But the exhibit’s standout is Elaine O’Neil, who photographed herself and her daughter Julia Hess every day for five years, beginning when Julia was 10. The selection of 10 images is frustratingly limited, but impresses for its visual variety as mother and daughter offer a range of seemingly unforced interactions. Above all, O’Neil and Hess deserve credit for the sheer dedication their longitudinal project required: It’s hard to imagine anyone but family agreeing to do it.
The exhibition is on view 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily to July 24 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F streets NW. Free.