Celebrating the moment

FotoWeek DC’s exhibits are a photographic bazaar, offering a little bit of everything to peak curiosity.

The vitality of opening night is almost intimidating. With a massive crowd moving in all directions, a steady hum of conversation and music melding into an indistinguishable amalgam of sound and so many things to see, it can be hard to know where to start.

FotoWeek DC has proven itself year after year to be an innovative, no holds barred celebration of photography. Now in its fourth year, what started as a way to celebrate D.C.-area photographers has become a way for photographers from diverse nations, genres and skill levels to showcase and garner appreciation for their art.

“Washington photographers, and regional photographers had never been awarded for great work. No competitions, or awards or showcase. And there’s never been a festival of photography here, and the combination of the two ideas – I talked to some photographer friends, they talked to theirs and everybody loved it,” Theo Adamstein, founder of FotoWeek DC, said.

The level of interest in the District came as a shock to the photography enthusiast.

“We had no idea there would be such a great response. And it just grew from there,” Adamstein said.

In November of 2008, the inaugural event attracted a widely unexpected 20,000 people. By 2009, the group officially became a non-profit, adding educational programs, expanding to new venues and incorporating student categories. Last year, over 40,000 people attended the week-long event.

This year, the group has expanded beyond the week of awards, incorporating various events throughout the year. Expansions include the National Cherry Blossom Festival photo contest, the opening of FotoSpace – a new gallery in Adams Morgan – and an exhibition entitled “Speaking to Silence,” which grew from a partnership with the Human Rights Watch and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Categories for awards encompass both style and subject matter, creating ample space for any picture that an artist or novice photographer wants to share.

This year’s entries range from a demure picture of light shining through a gauzy curtain, to heartbreaking images of families in Mexico torn apart by drug wars.

The Friday night launch party served a dual purpose as an opportunity to preview the contest winners and to socialize with the winning artists and fellow art-minded guests.

Richard Mosse’s project “Infra,” which uses Cold War-era film to create a shocking pink effect that offsets his commentary on the intense political climate of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was a particular crowd favorite, as many observers returned several times to gaze at the astounding historical visuals.

The upcoming week will include expert panels and seminars, entire exhibits devoted to single themes, parties to mingle with fellow art enthusiasts and, for those interested in improving their work, portfolio reviews. With over 50 events left to go throughout the week, the group’s celebration of photography is only just beginning.

The FotoWeek DC team received over 5,000 submissions in genres, ranging from crisis photojournalism to environmental conservation, all of which were showcased in thumbnail form on one crowded wall.

“It’s everybody. It’s professional photographers, amateur photographers, enthusiasts – we call them photo fanatics – children, families, collectors, curators,” Adamstein said. “Photography these days is the medium of our time, I think. It’s so accessible.”

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