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Over the years,D.C. has been blessed with a surplus of photographic exhibits that showcase aerial photography, from Emmet Gowin’s gently textured landscape images to the multiple retrospectives of Maxwell MacKenzie.
So the aerial images by Tanguy de Carbonnières—now on view at Glen Echo’s Photoworks Gallery—do not exactly fill a gaping thematic hole. Still, he ably fills in some nooks and crannies.
To get his images, de Carbonnières, a D.C.-based photographer, traveled by helicopter through Botswana’s Okavango Delta region last year. The territory he saw from above is more rugged than lushly beautiful—its color palette is dominated by beiges, and the textures tend toward the rough feel of dried mud.
Too many images in the exhibit look similar to others, but de Carbonnières does keep out a watchful eye for sporadic, and welcome, dashes of color—blue hues of water or the reds of vegetation—as well as a smattering of animals, large and small.
His finest images from the air are the most abstracted. In one, reflections on the ground suggest a Milky Way full of twinkling stars, while another suggests the surface of a frozen-over windshield crisscrossed by a web of spiraling crevasses.
In a separate series, de Carbonnières documented Victoria Falls from the ground. These images are more ethereal and, despite the familiarity of the location, more mysterious. The artist statement calls the force of the waterfall “primal,” but in de Carbonnières’ hands, the portrayals are downright primeval.
The Victoria Falls images, made in grainy black-and-white, are dominated by swirling mists. Some of de Carbonnières’ photographs have the calm, standoffish feel of pinhole-camera images. One captures a decontextualized block of falling water in a way that could easily pass for a photograph of clouds.
For a series that seeks to document such a massive landmark, de Carbonnières’ Victoria Falls images end up being more understated than monumental.
Through August 6 at Glen Echo Photoworks, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. (301) 634-2274. Sun.-Mon.: 1 p.m.–8 p.m., Sat.: 1 p.m.–4 p.m..