Agustin Victor Casasola would have felt right at home last night at the opening of an exhibit of his photographs at Fondo del Sol.
Many of the 80 works in the exhibition show a fondness for officialdom, and with all the diplomats and corporate bigwigs crowded into the Dupont Circle cultural center, Casasola could have found plenty of subjects upon which to focus his lens.
For starters, there was Mexican Ambassador Jorge Espinosa de los Reyes, fresh from hosting a party at his own embassy, closely examining photographs of artists and intellectuals prominent during the Mexican Revolution. "This is very interesting . . . it is very important for everybody to see this very important part of our history," he said.
Then there were the corporate types, like David W. Scott, Ford Motor Co.'s North American public affairs director. "We've been building cars in Mexico for 60 years, and selling them there for 80, and now we're building a new plant in Mexico. The opportunity came up [to contribute to the exhibition], and we decided this was something we wanted to do," said Scott before leaving the party to catch a flight back to Detroit.
"There are some good, long-range business reasons for corporations participating in something like this," said Walt Cannon, a trustee of the AT&T Foundation and an executive with AT&T Communications. "The Hispanic community is an important part of our society, and, to be a little less altruistic, they are important as customers."
Mexico's arts community is an important part of Casasola's work, and Washington's arts crowd was on hand to praise it.
"History is sometimes art," said Livingston Biddle, former National Endowment for the Arts chairman. "In this case, the photographer is a wonderful artist and his compositions are consistently interesting. They capture a universal quality. There's a special effort to get people without expressions."
"They capture a basic honesty," agreed Catharina Biddle, his wife.
"You can see a great unity," said painter Thomas O'Callaghan. "They're all getting along -- it's a good thought for society to build on."
Unity may have been expressed in the photographs, but the coordinators of the exhibit, who include Fondo del Sol's Mark Zuver, photographer Rebecca Crumlish, Mexican painter Felipe Ehrenberg and photo historian Victor Sorell, found it difficult at times to achieve unity between their own ideas and those of the Mexican government.
The exhibit had been in the works since 1980 because "changes in the Mexican government mean that everything begins all over again," said Ehrenberg. He also felt that "the responsible people in Mexico didn't think this would be of interest to Americans." Added Sorell, "Mexicans have the feeling that the U.S. tends to denigrate their culture."
Most of last night's several hundred guests were enthusiastic about what they saw. Here and there, groups of Americans gathered around people like Miguel Angel Fernandez, national director of Mexico's museums, for an impromptu lesson in Mexican history.
And if Casasola had wanted to take a family portrait, the party came complete with two Casasola grandsons, Agustin, the Mexican president's official photographer, and Gustavo, the editor of several volumes of his grandfather's work.
Agustin Casasola kept himself busy snapping away at the proceedings with a Canon pocket camera. "The photos are for a souvenir of this occasion," he said through an interpreter. "I'm doing the same thing my grandfather would be doing."