If the Dimock Gallery's show "Master Photographs From Washington Collections" doesn't get the old collecting juices going, nothing will.

Since the photo-collecting boom began a decade ago, Washington has been second only to New York in its wealth of photo dealerships: Harry Lunn, the greatest old master photography dealer in the world; Gerd Sander, now a private dealer, who added old and new Europeans to an insular scene; and Kathleen Ewing, who has taken up the banner for emerging Americans. Painting, sculpture and print galleries have all added photography shows to their exhibition schedules. Private photo dealerships have proliferated.

The dealers, together with the Corcoran and its frequent, high-quality photograph shows, offered Washingtonians both an education and an opportunity to start collecting in a new field where prices were still relatively low. What 11 Washingtonians have acquired as a result of this largesse is the subject of the Dimock's show.

Presented as a thumbnail sketch of photographic history, these 59 black-and-white images span the century from an 1887 Eadweard Muybridge study of "Animal Locomotion" to a 1960 Arnold Newman portrait of artist Milton Avery--both owned by Cynthia Brumback, one of three photographer-collectors represented. Edward Steichen's splendid image of Rodin with his sculpture "The Thinker" and Gertrude Kasebier's painterly "Road to Rome" are two of several moody photos in the romantic, pictorial tradition that prevailed at the turn of the century. Both are owned by photographer David Kennerly.

Atget's "Street Musicians" and Lewis Hine's street vendors "At Center Market" bring the year 1910 into focus both in Paris and New York--a fact that did not escape their owner, photographer Martin Ickow. There are other riveting images--some famous, some rarely seen--in the documentary tradition: Hine's "Madonna of Ellis Island," Alfred Steiglitz' "The Steerage" and James Van Der Zee's "Black Jews, Harlem, 1929." Josef Sudek, August Sander, Ralph Steiner, Heinrich Kuhn, Alvin Langdon Coburn, A. Aubrey Bodine and the astonishing Weegee are all represented by superb examples any art lover would be happy to own.

The show is by no means an exhaustive survey of Washington's private photography collections--but it was not meant to be. Some major collectors are clearly absent; and dealers Lunn, Sander and Ewing are among those who have made loans which, though from their own personal collections, cannot be said to represent what has been collected here. But Evans Walker, James Paulauskas and Kent Minichiello, along with the aforementioned photographers, emerge here as major collectors. "I found more than I expected," says the Dimock's director Lenore D. Miller. "I had 10 more names I didn't pursue for lack of space."

"There are definitely others," confirms Harry Lunn, "but the number who are collecting here with any seriousness is still relatively small. I've found it surprising that more people have not entered the field here. In New York and California, interest is much more evident."

But it's never to late to start. All the Berenice Abbott vintage prints in Lunn's current show cost between $500 and $1,000, and there are dozens of other famous photographers whose works sell in the same price range or less. For those who want their appetites whetted, the Dimock show, located in the lower-level gallery at Lisner Auditorium, 21st and H streets NW, continues through July 30. Hours are 10 to 5, Mondays through Fridays. The gallery is closed weekends.

Talent to Watch

There's a lot of loose talk about "new talent," but Gallery 10 really has one: Yuriko Yamaguchi. Currently a teacher at the University of Maryland, where she was recently a student, Yamaguchi has taken several prizes over the past two years in group shows juried by various curators and critics, including this one. Last year she showed small paintings at Foundry Gallery. This show features sculpture made from wood. Yamaguchi will no doubt try many other modes and media before she reaches full maturity, but she's well worth watching along the way.

Her former teacher Martin Puryear comes to mind in these strong, primitive presences that have sometimes been sawed and assembled into forms that look like ancient tools, and sometimes sanded and shaped into sensuous forms with distinctly sexual overtones. The wall-hung, tool-like objects--some very small and all very inexpensive--are among the strongest, most original works on view, while "Nexus VI," painted and touched with bits of rope, is perhaps the most expressive. The show is open 11 to 5 through June 19 at 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW.

California Artists

Middendorf/Lane at 2009 Columbia Rd. NW is showing two new painters from Los Angeles who operate at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Margaret Nielsen's deliciously painted, fun-filled oils are collectively titled "Love Stories--Short Stories, a series of fast-paced action paintings," and they are full of zooming objects and implied narratives. In "Here's Your Hat--There's the Door," for example, a hat roars into sight, trailing energy lines; while "Meet Me for a Quick Drink" features two martini glasses roaring at each other.

Kathryn Halbower has less happy stories to tell in her black, neo-Expressionist narratives. Vestigial figures seem to be in the process of being dissected, impaled, raped or attacked in cage-like enclosures, sometimes resembling cyclone fence, and conjuring thoughts of rapes or murders in a city playground. Most powerful are four small paintings made from plywood covered with black paint and wax, with the nervous line of the trapped figures and fences scratched in, baring the raw wood beneath. Hours are 11 to 6, through today.