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“Sacred Waters” is a quintessential National Geographic photography exhibition: geographically wide-ranging, diversity-celebrating, technically accomplished, and decidedly earnest. The show features images by social documentarian John Stanmeyer, who journeyed across multiple continents to photograph ways in which humans use water in sacred rituals. Stanmeyer goes beyond American baptisms (though they’re in there, too) to take in rituals involving Catholic pilgrims at Lourdes, Buddhist monks in Laos, Muslims in Istanbul, Shintoists in Japan, Hindus in India, and Orthodox Jews in the Ukraine using a mikveh, or ritual bath. The moods range from solemn to joyous, and the water’s hues range from muddy brown to inky black to dazzling blue-green. Most memorable is an image just this side of unreal, featuring a floating man in a stalactite-filled cavern lit by a shaft of sunlight.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. DAILY TO JUNE 13 AT THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MUSEUM, 1145 17TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 857-7000.