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Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 11/18/2008

Giving FotoWeek a Shot

By Stephanie Merry

As the type of person who is perpetually one millisecond too late to capture that great photo, I've been amazed at the work on display during FotoWeek DC, which started Saturday and runs through the 22nd.

Kendall Messick captures the projectionist in his basement-turned-theater, on display at Hemphill. (Kendall Messick)

When I first heard about the venture, I was thinking the week would feel a bit like Fringe Festival -- a complete crapshoot with a fair number of diamonds but also a whole lot of rough. So far though, I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of amazing art that has descended on Washington, and the number of people who seem to be enjoying it (even on a rainy day like Saturday when the FotoWeek headquarters and neighboring galleries were crawling with people).

With so many great shows the sheer number of options can be a bit overwhelming, so after the jump, some suggestions on where to start.

The official FotoWeek headquarters are in Georgetown, but it isn't necessary to start there since (at least last weekend) it seemed that you could snag a map and a button at other participating locations. The button guarantees entry into all FotoWeek events, workshops and lectures, but unlike the Fringe buttons, the FotoWeek ones are free once you register.

To make the most of your time, there are a few areas with high concentrations of exhibitions, including Georgetown, Dupont Circle, between Logan Circle and U Street and between Chinatown and Penn Quarter. As for individual shows, here are some of the standouts so far:

If the suddenly cold weather has you dreaming of warmer days, head to Civilian Art Projects for "Pastime." Images of swimming pools, beaches and even demolition derbies abound in this group exhibition that celebrates the art of relaxation.

Over at Hemphill Fine Arts, there are a couple of interesting shows, the more high profile of which is "Drive-In Theaters & Portraits" by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The photographer, known for his large-format camera and long exposure technique, captured drive-ins at night, giving the glowing screens a sort of otherworldly quality. The other exhibition, "The Projectionist" by Kendall Messick, features photos that document one man's need to create a movie theater in his basement.

Meanwhile, nine "National Geographic" photographers ponder the very diverse meaning of heaven on earth in "Visions of Paradise." Located at Healing Arts Gallery, the exhibition contains photos ranging from stingrays in the Grand Caymans to children dancing in Africa.

At Heineman Myers in Bethesda, the photos of two artists are shown together in "Faux/Real." Jeanette May deals with man's connection (or lack thereof) to nature by juxtaposing scenes of gardens, trees and shrubs with images of stuffed animals. Meanwhile Brady Robinson captured images from the theme park "The Holy Land Experience" to look at the relationship between religion and entertainment.

For those who don't have the time to make it to the exhibitions, there's good news -- FotoWeek has seeped beyond gallery walls. Thanks to Molly Ruppert. who came up with the idea for PixTour, photographs are gracing the walls and windows of various stores, theaters, bars and restaurants around D.C. So if you happen to be seeing a concert at DC9 or grabbing some frozen yogurt at TangySweet, you can check out a sample of FotoWeek offerings.

Another way to get your fill of photography is NightGallery DC, which consists of photo slideshows projected on various buildings around the city. Over the next couple of days, the show heads to the Kogod Courtyard at the American Art Museum and the soon-to-reopen American History Museum.

Have you checked out any FotoWeek exhibitions? Let us know in the comments what your favorites have been.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | November 18, 2008; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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