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Glossy prints on gallery walls are better than the glossy pages of a magazine for appreciating a photo in detail, and the National Portrait Gallery’s latest installment of “Portraiture Now” emphasizes the fine art in photojournalism from leading photographers for publications like Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, and Entertainment Weekly. Six magazine photographers with disparate styles are featured here for their editorial portraiture. For some, it’s impossible to ignore the overbearing influence of their predecessors, Annie Liebowitz and Richard Avedon, but other artists in the show have a vision all their own. You’ll see plenty of famous faces here. Steve Pyke’s portrait of Henry Kissinger is set in front of the Jan Frank painting Dr. K with a pattern that echoes Kissenger’s distinctive eyeglasses. Ryan McGinley’s room in the gallery is devoted to his pursuit of the singer Morrissey, captured in foggy silhouette with a microphone, and his enthralled fans. Celebrities aside, it’s the anonymous people who are the most captivating in this exhibit. Martin Schoeller, in particular, intersperses his photos of Jack Nicholson and Angelina Jolie with a set of anthropological portraits of members of the Piraha tribe, and two images of female bodybuilders, their sinewy muscles and tendons bulging. Katy Grannan has also captured memorable images of difficult social subjects, be they poor, imprisoned, or PTSD-suffering veterans. With Grannan, as well as Alec Soth and Jocelyn Lee, the glossy photos take on some grit.
The exhibition is on view from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, to Sept. 27 at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F Streets, NW. Free. (202) 633-8300.