- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

A standing President Bush, his eyes brimming with tears, waves a small American flag in a photograph at the Pentagon's one-month "service of remembrance." Doug Mills of the Associated Press took this moving close-up, titled "Sad," and it leads the "The Eyes of History" exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The show displays award-winning images from the White House News Photographers' Association competition, all shot last year.

Mr. Mills' image is typical of the hard-edged, though often poetic, realism that imbues these photos of Ground Zero in New York City and the Pentagon after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan, the anthrax scare and the president and members of Congress.

The 81-year-old association named Stephen Crowley of the New York Times its Eyes of History Photographer of the Year for a diverse photo portfolio that highlights the people of Afghanistan and a day in the life of Mr. Bush.

Mr. Crowley says: "People crave information in times of trauma. The events of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan were a reminder to photojournalists of the seriousness of our profession. These were stories that needed pictures."

Mr. Mills won the Political Photo of the Year honor for his image of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispering in President Bush's ear at an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., that America was under attack. Mr. Mills was the only photographer who traveled with the president the entire day on September 11.

"When Card walked into the room, we knew something tragic happened. It was a surreal moment in time that I will never forget," Mr. Mills says.

For the first time in the association's history, recognition as the Eyes of History Cameraperson of the Year and Eyes of History Video Editor of the Year went to the same individual, Travis Fox of Washingtonpost.com. "I was blown away," Mr. Fox said after hearing he had won both awards. "I'm a relative newcomer to video, and to be recognized by these two awards is a huge honor."

Paul Brewer, exhibit coordinator and director of the Corcoran's College of Art and Design, effectively begins the show with Mr. Crowley's "Voices of Afghanistan" series. Mr. Brewer clustered the 13 portraits into the exhibition's small introductory room to intensify the black-and-whites of the photographer's art.

Mr. Crowley created a Rembrandt-like ambience by posing sharply lighted Afghans in refugee camps against black curtains. The figures seem almost to swim out of the darkness. He used a small plastic box camera operated by Afghan photographers for visas and passport applications.

The eye engagement between viewers and sitters also evokes Rembrandt, as do the suffering and resignation caught in the eyes and poses.

One shot is of a teen-age ragpicker who says, "I want to go to school." A boy fruit vendor sits on his cart. "My brother was killed by the [U.S.] bombs last week," he relates. Another boy, who holds his shoeshining equipment, says: "My father was killed in the fighting years ago, and we had no money, so I started working for my uncle, who stitches shoes. When the bombing started, almost everyone on my street ran away, some to Pakistan, some far away. That was my nightmare night."

Mr. Crowley, who worked for papers in his native Florida and for The Washington Times before the New York Times, carries his mastery of light to a "Portfolio" of four color images in the larger exhibition gallery. Shafts of light pour down diagonally to illuminate suffering occupants of a "Prison." Similar spears of light show a man carrying a heavy sack in "Food Distribution Center."

Another magician of light is Pete Souza of the Chicago Tribune. In "Soccer Exit," he shows Afghans wheeling their bikes from a soccer stadium in Kabul to a golden-lighted square. The photo was taken at the first soccer match since the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Mr. Souza shows another side of his art in the black-and-white "Face of Uncertainty," which placed first in the international news category. A fearful young Afghan refugee girl comes forward with pinched lips and pleading eyes to receive her allotment of wheat. It's a picture that tears your heart out.

Photographers trained their lenses on Capitol Hill for another section of the show. It includes Mr. Crowley's "Sen. Strom Thurmond," which shows Mr. Thurmond sitting in a tufted leather chair while senators, staffers and reporters mill around him in a small reception room off the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee had to meet there while Capitol Hill offices were searched for anthrax contamination.

Mary F. Calvert of The Washington Times took second place in the Insiders' Washington section for "Waiting in the Wings." Senior White House staffers convene outside the Oval Office for a briefing with the president on his 100th day in office while a man in a gold-framed Daniel Boone-like portrait looks down from the wall.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld breaks into song as he leaves his office for a press meeting in a photograph by Karen Ballard that appeared in U.S. News & World Report. The Christian Science Monitor's Andy Nelson caught presidential dog Spot playing at the White House in "I Got It."

Exhibit visitors may wonder how photographers get their pictures. Maya Alleruzzo of The Washington Times says her shot of Jacob Woodley, nephew of slain Metro Transit Police Officer Marlon Morales, in "Gun Club" on June 30 was somewhat accidental.

"Family members were filing into the church for the funeral service for Mr. Morales while the press was penned up in a hot, crowded area. I leaned down to get something out of my bag. As I was turning to get up, there was the little boy framed by two police officers and silhouetted by one of the officer's hip revolvers. This is the surprise one hopes to encounter," she says.

There's no question that this exhibition holds work by some of today's best photojournalists, but it also will confuse visitors. It has too many categories and too few labels about the genesis of the works. The show is broken up into many poorly defined categories the Still Division has 16 sections and the Video Division 26.

The White House News Photographers' Association should streamline next year's display, and the Corcoran also should give it more space.


WHAT: "The Eyes of History"

WHERE: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Tuesdays, until 9 p.m. Thursdays. Through July 29

TICKETS: $5 for adults, $8 for families, $3 for seniors and guests of members, $1 for students 12 to 18 years old with valid ID

PHONE: 202/639-1700 or online at www.corcoran.org

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