The fall gallery season in Washington this year offers more than a dozen photography shows, not counting the remarkable daguerreotypes exhibition which opened yesterday at the National Portrait Gallery or the three photo shows scheduled by the Corcoran for next Saturday.
The exhibitions now on view run the gamut from "old masters" such as Walker Evans to the provocative work of several talented newcomers. A new gallery has opened, intending to show mainly contemporary color photos; several other photo dealers are celebrating anniversaries, and the implication is strong that Washington has become one of the best markets anywhere for photography both old and new. A Debt to Evans
Because Walker Evans (1903-1975) is best known for the photographs he took for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, he is often thought to be chiefly a social commentator, a chronicler of the worn faces, decrepit buildings, tattered billboards and dusty farms surrounding the rural poor. That he is much more than that - and, in fact, one of the most influential American artists of his time - is the thrust of a show now at the Lunn Gallery, 3243 P St. NW.
It is, in fact, astonishing to see what a profound debt the current crop of "in" photographers, notably Gary Winogrand and William Eggleston, owe to Evans. His precise and head-on description of visual fact, especially in his little-known series of anonymous subway riders made in the '30s. and the Chicago street portraits from the mid-40s. preceded the new "snapshot chic" by 40 years. One must wonder, at several points in this show, what, if anything, the new crop has added in terms of real content.
Apart from one exhibition held at the Wellesley College Museum last winter. Evans' work from 1945 to 1965 (during which time he was a staff photographer for Fortune magazine) has not been widely seen. His latest photographs, taken after he went to teach at Yale, are not well known either.
There are marvelous examples of both periods in the Lunn show, which marks the publication of a new picture book. "Walker Evans: First and Last" (Harper & Row), as well as a posthumously published portfolio of 15 Evans photographs, the first of three portfolois which Lunn plans to publish. The portfolio is on view, along with vintage prints from the estate. The show continues through Oct. 18. Expressive Color
One of the most interesting artists to use color in the controversial and important "Mirrors and Windows" show at New York's Museum of Modern Art was Eve Sonneman, whose work is now at Diana Brown Gallery, 2028 P St. NW.
She is represented at the MOMA show (which closes Oct. 2) by a pair of photographs showing a red blanket on a gray beach, the color almost singlehandedly inducing a surrealistic mood. Alas, there is nothing in the Washington show to match it in expressive power.
What is on view are a dozen pairs of Cibachrome prints, shown side by side in a before-and-after format. In other words, the left photograph in each pair seems to have been taken just before the photograph (usually of the same subject) on the right.
Sometimes the action implied is quite specific, as in "Moving: The Henley Regatta 1977" wherein the moments just before and after the start of the race are depicted. In most other examples here, however, the intervening event (or non-event) is less tangible.
"I'm trying to provoke the viewer to invent a narrative by setting up a tension between the two images," the artist explains. She also has some fun toying with the question of "real" time (as opposed to the frozen instant captured by a camera), most obviously in "The Instant and the Moment" which juxtaposes a snapshot-like image of the Parthenon (implying eternity) with another showing a crowd waiting for a train, clock overhead (implying "real" time, or, punningly, another kind of "eternity.")
The viewer is left wishing for a more coherent look at this artist's work. This show continues through Oct. 12. A New Gallery
A new gallery called Photo-Graphics, Inc., devoted almost entirely to contemporary color photography, has now opened three flights up at 1522 Connecticut Ave., one block north of Dupont Circle. The brainchild of a Washington attorney-turned-dealer, Steven Gottlieb, the gallery features the work of several top-notch professional color photographers with whom the newly developed photo market has finally caught up.
"My photographers aren't so interested in doing something "different" as they are in doing something unabashedly beautiful, and doing it well." says Gottlieb, who calls himself "anti-elitist," and insists that the "boring and depressing" sort of photographs featured in MOMA's "Mirrors & Windows" show will not be found in his gallery. There is one exception, George Tice, the only black-and-white photographer on view, and the one the "elitists" might well like best.
The tiny but attractive gallery space is filled with dry-mounted and framed color photographs of landscapes and faraway places, from Cairo to Nantucket, by Washington photographer Fred Maroon; and close-ups of natural forms such as chemical crystals, frosted windows and sea spray, (all looking very much like abstract expressionist paintings) by Mortimer Abramowitz and Nick Foster. Each has been published widely, in Time-Life Books and elsewhere.
James Pipkin's striking multiple images of Washington are also featured, along with work by Warren Krupsaw and the New York photographer and tennis pro William Gottlieb.
The gallery is already doing a booming business in providing small-to mural-sized enlargements for corporation lobbies, law offices and restaurants here and in New York.
In early summer the gallery also briefly launched a sidewalk pushcart full of inexpensivr ($13 and up) historic photographs re-printed from Library of Congress negatives. That stock is now available in the gallery. Hours are 10 to 5 today, 11 to 5 Monday through Friday or by appointment. Branching Out
The Sander Gallery, at 2604 Connecticut Ave. NW, which has been dealing chiefly in 20th-century European photography, is branching out, as is evidenced by the "New Acquisitions" show now on view. It includes, along with several lyrical photographic stilllifes of Joseph Sudek. Carlotta Cipron and other masters, known and unknown, small sculpture by William Christenberry, Pietro Lazzari and others.In spirit, the sculpture is closely attuned to the surrounding photographs, no doubt a function of the sensitive installation.
The show continues until Sept. 30. when color dye-transfer prints by Eliot Porter and Ellen Auerbach, entitled "Mexican Church Interiors," will go on view. A Dream World
Intuitiveye Gallery, at 641 Indiana Ave. N.W. is showing "The Dream World of Paul Tillinghast, a 25-year-old Washington photographer who, by day, designs innocent photographic ads for the Hecht Co. His own work, however, reveals a highly personal vision, haunting, ominous and often bizarre.
A nude woman, for example (one of several) holds her baby in the air and appears to be devouring it; another child is led down the street while an adult, symbolically, has a stranglehold on him via his knitted scarf, making him a prisoner. The first photograph is stagey, the second a poignant statement, as is another straightforward shot of an aunt and uncle in their dining room, seen as Diana Arbus would have seen them but with more bite and no sympathy. Tillinghast is best when he is not straining for the bizarre.
Both Sander and Intuitiveye are celebrating the beginning of their third seasons. So are private dealers Kathleen Ewing, who is currently showing the light-drenched new palladium prints of Mark Power. Another private dealer, also celebrating, is Sandra Berler, who will be exhibiting the photographs of Manuel Alvarez Bravo in tandem with the forthcoming Corcoran retrospective. Both Ewing and Berler are by appointment only.
Bernis von zur Muehlen's delicately colored photographs, chiefly nudes, are now being shown at the Baltimore Museum: and by way of exchange. Baltimore city photographer Jon-Eric Eaton is showing his surrealistic photo-fantasies at the Studio Gallery, 802 F St. NW. Arthur Ollman from San Francisco, who is included in the MOMA show, is featured at WPA, 1227 G St. NW.
In addition, it might be noted that the White House press Photographers' show closes Sunday at the Library of Congress, but will be open today and Sunday from 8:30 to 6 p.m. The George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., has on exhibit a selection of work by the late "Ollie" Atkins, White House photographer and long time staff photographer for The Saturday Evening Post. His widow has just donated 15,000 of her husband's prints and negatives to the University's Fenwick Library.