For a small, five-artist show, the Carroll Square Gallery exhibit “Photo/Diary” packs a pretty good punch.
Arguably the most engrossing series in the exhibit is the one by Edgar Endress that pays respects to a particularly homespun and practical variety of South American photography that’s been practiced for almost a century: the creation of photo-ID cards for day laborers.
Endress explicitly adapts the work of Apolinar Escobar, who used a decades-old, eccentric German paper-negative camera to make unassuming, black-and-white images of workers in a central square in La Paz, Bolivia (shown second from top). Each worker is posed with a tool bag that’s decorated with the name of his or her profession. By the time Endress met him in 2010, Escobar had spent 30 years plying his trade in the same spot, using a blank canvas background and the low-tech camera even as his competitors went digital.
Endress’ set of three large images from 2013 seem visually indistinguishable from Escobar’s. Endress’ website explicitly terms it a “collaboration” with Escobar, though the images do raise questions about where to draw the line between homage and appropriation.
Among the other photographers in the exhibit, Dawn Whitmore offers a series of photo-collages (third from top) that are personal to the point of inscrutability, featuring old black-and-white snapshots and recurring motifs of fruit. Two other artists who have exhibited frequently in D.C., E. Brady Robinson and Susana Raab, contribute parallel collections that draw heavily on both the people and places of the city.
Robinson situates creative types against colorfully painted or graffiti-filled walls in seemingly derelict neighborhoods (second from bottom). Raab, for her part, offers a selection from her impressive “East of the River” series documenting the predominantly African-American precincts of Anacostia. Particularly impressive are Raab’s images of a street performer dancing on top of a transformer box while a crowd gathers on the sidewalk (bottom); a cheerleading practice held within a sea of otherworldly green umbrellas and grass; and a proud youngster in a pink T-shirt posing with a pink purse and small pair of scissors.
For sheer intensity, though, the winner is Jati Lindsay, who contributes large black-and-white portraits of jazz musicians in action. One image, of Mara Hruby, eerily replicates classic photographs of Billie Holiday. Two other images are extreme closeups that zoom into their subject with a tangible velocity (top) – the equivalent of a power chord, not a pizzicato.
Through Nov. 21 at Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St NW, Washington, DC. Mon-Fri 8–6.