Credit: Steven Bollman

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In photography displayed in the D.C. area this year, five images stood out. They came from all over, from Mexico to Japan to Cuba to the Middle East. Here’s one art critic’s picks for the best photographic images exhibited in local museums and galleries in 2018.

Credit: Nestor Ares Cortes

Nestor Ares Cortes

In the eighth annual Photo Slam exhibit at Glen Echo Photoworks, Ares Cortes documented the Mexican Day of the Dead. One image was especially phantasmagoric—a photograph that peered through a stone arch toward hulking figures, crosses, and eerily lit trees at nighttime that initially seem to be aflame.

Credit: Jo Levine

Jo Levine

Levine was one of 14 photographers who contributed to the Studio Gallery’s group show, Narrative: Contemporary Photography and the Art of Storytelling. The exhibit was full of creative work, but an image by Levine was a standout: a bonfire photographed through the fire’s heat waves, as if it had been taken through frosted, textured glass.

Credit: Fred Zafran

Fred Zafran

Zafran’s exhibition at Multiple Exposures Gallery, Along The Poet’s Narrow Road, was as moody and contemplative as you might expect for a meditation on a 17th century Japanese poet’s journey. Zafran made photographs along the path of Matsuo Bashō, a famous Edo-era master of haiku who cast off his possessions and hiked 1,500 miles through a wilderness region, mostly by himself, and wrote poetry. Zafran’s almost painterly image of a woman standing statue-like on a train platform embodied the notion of quiet anticipation.

Steven Bollman

In his Leica Store DC retrospective Almost True, Bollman offered an apt description of his philosophy—that even though his photographs were made over a period of 30 years and in many locales, they cover “just a few seconds in real time.” The most striking image was an homage to the signature works of O. Winston Link—a 1950s-era car outracing a cruise ship under dark skies along Havana’s Malecón.

Credit: Amani Al Shaali

Amani Al Shaali

The American University Museum exhibit Tribe: Contemporary Photography from the Arab World included a wide range of deeply personal imagery from cutting-edge artists, but one that stood out was Al Shaali’s dreamlike image of a woman besieged by falling knives—a tableau that was at once particular and universal.