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As photography goes, you can’t really get an odder coupling than black-and-white images of demolition derbies and color landscapes of Iceland. But for FotoWeek, both converged on Hillyer Art Space.
Christine Pearl—-a D.C. based construction project manager turned photographer—-goes old-school with black-and-white prints that document a venerable blue-collar tradition that’s holding on in some corners of rural America. In picture after picture, demolition derby denizens commune with their cars as if they were treasured pieces of furniture. But while Pearl clearly cares about the fans who populate her images, the people ultimately fade into the background; the stars here are the cars, in all their dented and rough, hand-painted glory.
The title photograph is a virtual snuff image, capturing the moment at which a pair of vehicles erupts into a billow of smoke, pocked by flying bits of mud. Meanwhile, in “Nick’s Car,” Pearl skillfully makes a stripped-down car interior seem impossibly expansive.
Pearl’s finest image, however, is “Slam” (top), which shows a man, mid-swing, wielding a sledgehammer against a car, framed by a roughly cropped onlooker and a bulldog—-as good an example of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” as any I’ve seen recently.
Hillyer’s images of Iceland are infinitely quieter and more meditative. Elena Sheehan offers the most naturalistic take, most notably in a series of images of icebergs that exude a truly eerie, bluish hue (bottom).
Svavar Jonatansson, meanwhile, documents a 900-mile ring road that circumscribes the island, a project that’s thematically and visually similar to Paul Graham’s U.K. survey, “A1: The Great North Road.” Jonatansson’s landscapes are poetically desolate, ranging from snowy tableaux to grass in various shades of green; one only wishes they could be hung with musical accompaniment, as two video compilations produced by the artist have been.
But the collection’s most expressive images are also the most melancholy: Katrín Elvarsdóttir’s photographs of run-down RVs in nature (second from bottom), and Friðgeir Helgason‘s bits of forlorn detritus amid sprawling landscapes, from soccer goals to playground slides (second from top). Traces of humanity, evidently, prove more interesting than pure nature.
Through Nov. 26 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 338-0325. Mon 12-5, Tue-Fri 12-6, Sat 12-5.