Is it possible that some of the more impressive photography in Washington right now has been produced by near-amateurs? Judging by the nearly three dozen juried works in the 9th annual International Photography Competition at Bethesda’s Fraser Gallery—-drawn from a pool of more than 500 entries submitted by 151 locals and out-of-towners—-that may be the case.
True, the works are more likely to pay homage than offer an entirely new perspective—-Walter Hobbs’ foggy urban nocturne echoes (right) the cityscapes of Alfred Stieglitz, for instance, while George Borden’s nighttime image of D.C.’s Key Bridge is a dead ringer for a Michael Kenna,and Sharon Dowis’ image of tire tracks in the snow recalls those André Kertesz made from his apartment above New York’s Washington Square Park—-but they are carried out with such impeccable technique that one has to forgive the familiar tropes.
A few of the works deserve special note: Edward Hahn’s small dock floating unassumingly in tranquil waters; David Quinn’s dreamily blurred seascape in late afternoon; and Allen Russ’ centrifugal symphony of blues at a Scottish pond.
Several artists used digital manipulation to worthwhile effect. Deb Casso layers a ghostly forest on top of—-or is it behind?—-a lone tree in a field, while Walter Plotnick creates a motion-filled photo-montage of circus performers, and Virginia Saunders presents a supernatural tableau of an old man sitting on what appears to be a crumbling Venetian street.
Others play it straight. David Orbock uses a 360-degree revolving camera to produce a dignified portrait of the Lincoln Memorial; Michael Palmer produces an moody image of the towering National Cathedral under a threatening sky; and Michael McCullough offers a succinct meditation on death through an artful array of discarded locust exoskeletons.
The exhibit’s landscape images are among its strongest: Kent Mercurio’s tiny, isolated, leafy island under a silky sky (above); Lee Goodwin’s finely detailed photograph of a wooded shoreline; and Minny Lee’s ominous sky-and-branches image, with the indistinct detailing one might find in an early 20th century gum-bichromate print.
Many of the works not listed here are nonetheless worth a look; most of the images (though not all) can be viewed online at Fraser’s site.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 11:30 A.M. TO 6 P.M TUESDAY TO SATURDAY TO APRIL 3 AT FRASER GALLERY, 7700 WISCONSIN AVE. SUITE E, BETHESDA. FREE. (301) 718-9651.