Exhibit: "Little Pictures Big Lives"
It's hard to imagine it, but there was a time when taking a photograph without posing your subject was considered wasteful. You had to pay for the film, after all, and you had to pay to have it developed. Go back even further, to a time when making photographs required intimate knowledge of photographic equipment and time in a dark room and, well, you can imagine how rare it was for people to photograph their friends and family unawares. As the Archives of American Art demonstrates in "Little Pictures Big Lives," the folly of past photographers is humbling for today's spoiled shutterbugs. Not all of the pictures are pretty or refined, but they do let us glimpse people whom we've only seen looking surly or contemplative on a dust jacket, in an entirely new light. There's a blurry photo of novelist E.M. Forrester laughing with his eyes closed and a picture of painter Georgia O'Keefe reclining on a beech chair while sculptor Una Hanbury builds her head out of clay. There's an awkward profile shot of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, just as he is about to talk to a person outside the viewfinder, and a shot of splatter master Jackson Pollock, lecturing his pet dog. The collection also includes photos whose candid subjects and photographers are unknown, and who are bound to the O'Keefe's and Pollocks by their defiance of the medium's bygone restrictions. To Oct. 3 at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, 8th and F Sts. NW. Phone: 202-633-7940. Web: http://www.aaa.si.edu/