Pictures loom large for Fotoweek DC

If you swore you saw a giant photo of Hurricane Katrina wreckage projected on the Newseum’s façade recently, you’re probably right. 

Fotoweek DC’s Night Gallery project is illuminating blown-up images of contemporary news and political events on buildings around the city through Saturday.

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“Our mission is to bring great photography to the city and to make it available to our community and to visitors in many different ways,” Fotoweek DC Founder and President Theo Adamstein said. The idea behind Night Gallery, he added, is to make the photography normally found inside Washington’s buildings available to the everyday urbanite walking or driving by.

In addition to Hurricane Katrina photos at the Newseum, the exhibition includes Afghanistan war photos projected on the Corcoran Gallery, Haiti earthquake-relief images on the American Red Cross headquarters, and a collection of human-rights and social-justice photos on the Human Rights Campaign building.

Photos with a political bent can be found in the collection from the book The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office, by National Geographic Executive Producer John Bredar. Among the images scheduled to be projected are a photo from President Obama’s 2008 inauguration night, when he and first lady Michelle Obama hopped from gala to gala; and a 1996 picture of then-President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton watching results on election night.

“The photo captures a very personal moment,” Adamstein said of the Clinton image.

Marc Herring, the project’s designer and producer, said he looks for both a unique building and an outstanding image.

“We look for masonry and large-scale visibility … through heavily trafficked corridors so there’s an opportunity for the evening commute audience to come and stand and enjoy it for 20 or 30 minutes or longer,” he said. As for the type of photo that can be blown up to large-scale proportions and successfully projected on the side of a building, it needs “a certain heroic character,” he said, with “contrasts of scale and intensity.”

Adamstein said Fotoweek DC officials use various means to pick the photo collections to be included in Night Gallery. They run a contest to select photos from lesser-known photographers, and they also work with three professional curators to solicit works from more established names in the business. 

“We’re looking for work that is in some cases on the edge, that’s in some cases trying to break the mold,” he said. “It’s work that’s likely to evoke strong emotion.”

A full list of exhibitions and locations can be found at www.fotoweekdc.org.