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If there’s a lesson from the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition In the Darkroom—an overview of photographic processes from 1839 to the present—it’s that the less common techniques often provide the most intriguing images. Ever hear of a Woodburytype? The laborious process largely disappeared after 1895, a shame given the fine detail and impressive range of tones in Etienne Carjat’s portrait of Charles Baudelaire. Another technique, the photogravure, is more familiar, but rarely has it looked as stunning as with Charles Negre’s large-scale photograph of Chartres Cathedral. Unexpectedly resonant is the oldest and simplest work in the show—a cameraless image on blue paper, made only by sunlight, of a piece of lace, rendered as meticulously as if it had been made yesterday.

THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW MONDAY TO SATURDAY 11 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AND SUNDAY 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M. TO MARCH 14, 2010, AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, 4TH STREET AND CONSTITUTION AVE NW. FREE. (202) 737-4215.