For FotoWeek DC, Hillyer Art Space is hosting three separate photography exhibits. Of them, the least polished exhibit shows the most promise.
The first, “Challenging Adversity: Ibero-America Copes with Climate Change,” looks precisely like what it is: an exhibit organized by the Ibero-American Cultural Attaches Association. The images are professional, carefully chosen and span an entire continent—and they wear their do-gooder creds a little too obviously on their sleeve.
Solar panels, floodwaters, endangered wildlife, a farmer in his field, forest fires—they’re all here. But most of the images look like they came from an NGO’s annual report. The series comes wrapped up too neatly.
The two impressive exceptions both come from the air. In one image by Musuk Nolte, Peruvian farmland appears as a carpet of amber and green, tightly fitted over the rolling, jutting landscape. And in an image from Uruguay, Julio Testoni offers an unexpectedly well-groomed forest on an eccentrically shaped peninsula, all surrounded by impossibly blue water.
The second exhibit, by Paola Paredes, is conceptually promising. Paredes’ series of photographs document her coming out as gay to her conservative, Catholic, Ecuadorian parents at age 28 in 2014. To capture the exchange, Paredes “desensitized” her parents to the presence of cameras at home by photographing them at all hours while doing ordinary tasks. Then she set up a camera for her coming-out conversation and prepped it to shoot an image every five seconds.
The project as a whole is inspired and brave, but the final works seem less dramatic than one would expect. Shown in a linear progression, the images of the family talking out the revelation seem to move seamlessly from crying to pleased acceptance. The lack of visual and narrative drama undercuts the power of the episode.
The final exhibit—works from about two dozen artists juried by Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah—is uneven. But it includes some unexpected pleasures.
Cheryl Lavoie captures a derelict patch of urban blight in an unexpectedly appealing way, using a format that limns its subject in a colorful, pointillist tones. Michael Rahn, meanwhile, skillfully slices up old, sepia-toned photographs into strips and then reassembles them into coherent, composite portraits.
Ann Kaplan uses washed-out hues to capture ordinary people going about their business on public transit. And Jennifer Murray repurposes vintage snapshots of an older woman on vacation. In each, the woman is carrying a swinging-sixties bag in bold primary colors. It isn’t clear who she is or what relation she has to the photographer, but whoever it is, Murray has chosen to highlight the bag by framing it each time in an overlaid circle. It’s hard not to see the series as a winking salute to her subject’s individuality.
Through Dec. 18 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Court NW. (202) 338-0325. Mon. 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Tue.-Fri. 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 p.m.-5 p.m.