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The three photographers showing jointly at the Goethe-Institut—-Iris Janke of Germany and Kaitlin Jencso and Sara J. Winston of the United States—-intend their works to be a “dialogue on a common topic: self-identity.” Each does indeed present a deeply personal vision, but in combination, their offerings are uneven. Winston provides depressing visions of disorder—-matted hair on a shower soapdish, spilled drinks on carpets and flannel shirts—-leavened only by a low-key image of a rocky woodland punctuated by intriguing red blotches. Janke’s works spill over several walls in various sizes and arrangements, many of them mundane; the most visually impressive is a hazy, pastel-hued portrait of a young child in a field, looking like a future memory made prematurely real (top). Meanwhile, Jencso takes a Cindy Shermanesque approach to posed female identities, chronicling an anonymous figure in a series of tightly circumscribed, lower-middle-class, domestic settings. The environment she uses is drab, exemplified by an archaic touch-tone phone with a long, spiral cord that can reach all around the claustrophobic kitchen. Her most poignant image is one of the female protagonist leaning over the kitchen sink, her back to the camera and surrounded by an ethereal glow (below)—-a pose that unmistakably echoes the iconic George Tames photograph of President John F. Kennedy leaning against his desk in the Oval Office. The Kennedy image is titled “The Loneliest Job,” a label that fits Jencso’s gloomy vision perfectly.
The exhibit is on view 9 to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 to 3 p.m. Friday to January 27 at Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW. (202) 289-1200. Free.