The camera, Feinberg says, “gave me the excuse to find out what other parts of the outside world, which I hadn’t been exposed to, or didn’t know much about, or was curious about or thought I wanted to be in.”
Though he didn’t consider becoming an artist, “there was always something about the life of an artist, having read Hemingway and writers back then, that appealed to me.”
His first taste came when he met artist Manon Cleary in her Adams Morgan studio. Suddenly, Feinberg says, “I found this stereotype that I imagined: a real bohemian artist in this city.” Through her, Feinberg met other artists who “made life here much more cosmopolitan to a person that knew none of these worlds growing up.”
Over the years, Feinberg’s images became the basis of dozens of magazine photo stories and a handful of gallery shows, from his earliest bus station essay to 2009’s “Another Washington,” a show of images he captured of tattoo artists, panhandlers, burlesque queens and others from the 1970s and ’80s.
When Cleary took ill in recent years, she requested he continue to photograph her in her studio. It got Feinberg thinking of the other artists he had met decades ago as well. He found them all still working and still committed to their painting, even as the art world had in many cases moved on to the next big thing.
Double portraits of nine artists comprise his new show, “Constant Artist,” opening June 9 at the Katzen Arts Center at American University, along with what he calls “word portraits” — excerpts from the transcribed interviews Feinberg includes with his work.
As with his previous shots of gritty, bygone Washington, “the point of much of it is showing change,” he says.
Artists included the show are Lisa Montag Brotman, Rebecca Davenport, Fred Folsom, Tom Green, Margarida Kendall Hull, Joseph White and the three pictured here.
In addition to the double portraits of those artists, we asked Feinberg to provide similar then-and-now photographs of himself.
Photographed in 1979 and 2012
Photographer and interviewer, his work has appeared in Washingtonian, The Washington Post magazine and in exhibits.
“I don’t consider myself an artist. I’m a documentarian. I want to give these people some attention. Outside of their obituaries, you don’t get to read about them all that much . . .
“The artists’ photographs are mostly close-up portraits in order to emphasize the passage of time. . . . But in the bigger picture, it comments on change: change to a vibrant, creative, cultural part of our city, and change in life expectations as we grow older.
“In spite of many obstacles, these nine artists, having been recognized as among the best of our city, continue to produce their art as they have since their youth and strive to maintain or re-establish the acceptance and appreciation of their artistic visions.”