Transnational Perspective Through a Camera’s Lens

As part of FotoWeek, many embassies have put on their own photo exhibitions for the public. While at ArtSee we tend to focus on emerging local artists, living in D.C. and being surrounded by diplomats gives us the unique opportunity to have artists from around the world brought to us. In essence, part of the district’s local character is its global connections. The French and Swedish Embassies are each holding photography exhibits that explore the ideas of nationalism, identity, and the tensions created by these forces.

 The French Embassy hosts the exhibit Broken Roots: Illegal Immigration into the United States by José Hernández-Claire. The show is composed of black and white photographs that are fraught with emotion. The embassy set up the exhibit in an unconventional way, in addition to photographs lining the walls of an airy corridor, there are also freestanding walls with photographs on both sides, This layout creates a journey for the viewer filled with grounded obstacles, possibly reflecting the immigrant’s experience crossing the border, that add depth and dimension to the space. The photographs are crisp and capture the hurried movement of the subjects. [In many of the photographs, José Hernández-Claire highlights the idea of a transient life by drawing the viewer’s attention to discarded items through use of shadows and contrast.

 The beautiful eco-friendly House of Sweden located on the Waterfront is featuring five artists all currently based in Sweden. Gregor Ulf Nilson, an internationally acclaimed curator, art director, and graphic designer, designed the show Different Distances, which explores the ideas of reality and displaced limits. Particular attention should be given to the artists Julia Hetta and Denise Grünstein. Hetta’s photographic style is “rooted in classical painting without getting trapped in ridged formula” and this could not more perfectly describe her photographs. Hetta’s use of traditional poses and lighting, slightly twisted and amped up, creates a new, unique style. Grünstein masks her subjects’ faces in massive tangles of luxurious hair to play with the idea of self-identity and ambiguity. Her work reads like images from high-fashion magazines with intense color, high gloss development and bright lighting. The House of Sweden also turned traditional photography curation on its head by using a space with all black walls and the placement of some photographs lying flat on elevated boxes on the floor.


It is respectable that both embassies put a lot of creative energy into their shows. The consulates truly embraced FotoWeek, a facet of their new local D.C. community.  

For more information on the schedule of all FotoWeek events click here

Bringing the Art in DC to You,
Mica Hartman