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TO FEB. 19
It’s one thing to document the world’s dispossessed through photography; it’s quite another to do so with artistry. Karen Kessi-Williams follows in the footsteps of several photographers who have managed to balance those two aims—Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Sebastinao Salgado—and though she isn’t in their league yet, she’s doing quite well. A resident of Brighton, England, Kessi-Williams spends much of her time traveling the world, often on assignment for humanitarian-aid organizations. Her 18-photograph exhibition (Homemade glasses, Maratani Refugee Camp, Mozambique 2001 is pictured) at the Fraser Gallery in Georgetown combines images she took for the United Nations with those taken to satisfy her own curiosity and wanderlust. Visitors won’t find landscapes or abstractions here; Kessi-Williams is interested in chronicling the people she meets, with intimacy that seems to be mutual. Kessi-Williams’ subjects—in this show, they’re mostly in Mozambique and Tanzania—range from breast-feeding mothers to wizened grandmothers, from silversmiths to bus riders retrieving their bags in near-unison. There are also children: wide-eyed, wan, or with just the slightest inkling of a smile. Kessi-Williams’ most impressive images were made in low light with high-speed black-and-white film, which lends a luscious graininess to such features as the linoleum floors and cream walls of Barber, Angoche, Mozambique. The most remarkable image in the show, Hands and Faces, Maratani, Mozambique, is as visually fractured as any Picasso, yet it succinctly captures a moment in the life of a refugee camp. The United Nations is surely getting its money’s worth. See for yourself from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, to Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-6450. (Louis Jacobson)