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“Images of Passion”

A photography exhibition titled “Images of Passion” is enough to make anyone swoon. As it happens, though, the subject of this show is not sex but religion—and largely unfamiliar religious practices at that. Frank Lavelle’s passion took him to Sicily to photograph Holy Week 2005. His images of celebrants’ faces (pictured) are hardly groundbreaking, but his behind-the-scenes photographs of actors portraying Biblical characters are memorable, less for their passion than for the oddity of seeing robed men wearing sneakers and stretching their leg muscles backstage. Mark L. Power, too, photographed Holy Week in a Catholic European country—Spain. His subject, however, is even more unusual, documenting the hood-and-robe-wearing aspiring penitents known as Nazarenos. If you can get past the fact that they’re dead ringers for Ku Klux Klan attire, the Nazarenos’ conically shaped hoods and cloaks created from supple fabrics in high-contrast black and white offer some striking, minimalist imagery. But only the third artist, Barbara Bussell, fully captures the passion promised by the show’s title, at least in a few of her images. Bussell documents religious ceremonies in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Haiti, sometimes with impressive synecdoche (one image of a pilgrim, for instance, focuses only on his knee pads and frayed-bottom walking stick). But it is Bussell’s Haitian images that come closest to channeling her subjects’ emotions, featuring near-ecstatic figures covered in, and sometimes almost totally consumed by, muddy, oily water. The exhibition is on view from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment, to April 8 at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)