Our Town. Just Regular Folks. Neighbors. Any of these could banner the collection of photographs. But somehow, "Arlington, a Family Album" slips easiest from the tongue.
Spread across the table, these are the people and places of Arlington. Size 3 ballet toes crimped around a dance bar. Protesters circling the Pentagon. Colonial brick juxtaposed against gray concrete. Commuting federal workers hunkered into their automobiles.
Each flip of the wrist reveals another Arlington -- a different fence, a different face -- and represents the first stages of a photographic study being prepared by county residents Lloyd Wolf and Paula Endo.
Wolf and Endo, high school teachers cum photo-journalists, have just received a one-year, $5,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to capture Arlington in glossy splendor.
"Most people regard Arlington as merely as place on the map en route to Washington, a place of monochromatic blandness," Wolf said. "We want to open people's eyes to the richness of the community.
"Arlington is such a diverse community. You have large pockets of immigrant residents interspersed with old-time Virginians. Crystal City in all its glitter looms over neighborhoods that have not changed in fifty years. I know there are areas that most people in the community don't even know exist. We want to share these images."
Wolf's and Endo's plans to chronicle contemporary Arlington through photography began more than two years ago, when both were teaching photography at the Arlington Career Center, an alternative public high school. For years, both had recognized -- and wanted to show -- the marked changes that had occurred in Arlington during the past 50 years, and the almost polar differences separating segments of the community.
A microcosm of the suburban development that was occurring across the nation lay in their backyard, they felt, but lack of funds deterred them from documenting it.
Then, two years ago, while they were attending a conference in Miami, someone mentioned the arts grants. That sparked a flurry of activity that culminated last month in the approval of their proposal, and the funds to carry it out.
Already, Wolf and Endo are scouring Arlington's streets, searching for subjects.
Garage sales, county fairs, shopping centers and the streets have all proved fertile ground for the photojournalists.
"There is no typical Arlingtonian or Arlington neighborhood. We never know what we are going to shoot. We just want to show what we see," Wolf said.
In an era of photography when the more contorted the image and unsuspecting the subject the more valued the photo, Wolf's and Endo's pictures may appear formal and planned to some. Chesire-cat grins beamed straight into the camera's eye. Sunday's-best families lined up carefull in front of living-room mantles. Husbands and wives perched proudly on their suburbans front steps.
But Wolf and Endo say this is how the photos should appear. For a long time, they said, they grappled with the question of "arts vs. realistic portrayal." They had shown their work in numerous galleries, had studied at the Corcoran and, in short, felt they were more than studio photographers. But they said they finally recognized that the major intent of their project was to record the people and landscape -- to make a family ablum for the residents of Arlington.
"Originally, our intent was to catch people totally as they usually are -- without make-up, without ties, et cetera. However, I soon realized that when people want to dress up for their photograph, that is as much a statement of what they are as what they appear to be," Endo explained, showing a posed portrait of one family of Vietnamese immigrants.
Nearly every one of the subjects has been asked if the picture may be used in the project, scheduled to be exhibited around the county next September. Wolf said almost everyone agreed, and many others have asked to be photographed.
Eventually, Endo and Wolf plan to print about 1,000 black-and-white photos, from which they will pick 100 exhibit.
"I don't want to feel like a sniper in my community," Wolf said. "Rather, I want to feel like I am a mirror through which people can see what they have not seen."