He stored his photos in boxes and bags for decades – until one man saw their genius

D.C. native Chris Earnshaw took thousands of Polaroid and Instamatic photos of the capital in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. He was drawn to historic buildings awaiting or undergoing demolition in Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and downtown. He also took portraits of pedestrians, street people and the occasional celebrity (Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, blues musicians like Carey Bell). He kept his photos in relative disarray over the years — in bags and metal filing boxes, in a series of storage units — until he brought them all to Joe Mills, the head of the photography department at Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Georgetown. Mills organized the work, scanned the images onto his computer, enlarged them and printed them on antique paper with amber coloring to mimic the processes of Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott and Eugène Atget. The result is a body of street photography, numbering about 750 images, that reflects a collaboration between Earnshaw and Mills. A selection of the images is on exhibit at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., through Feb. 26. [Read more about Chris Earnshaw and Joseph Mills here: The Polaroids of the Cowboy Poet]

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