WASHINGTON, DC.- The Corcoran Gallery of Art
opened Neighborhood Watch, an exhibition of vintage and contemporary photographs by artist Claudia Smigrod. In Neighborhood Watch Smigrod revisits the subjects she photographed for her 1989 exhibition, Portraits of Innocence. Through a resurvey of the original participants in black and white photography Smigrod records the evolution of twenty individuals as she captures them within their native environments in Alexandria, VA.
A photographer since the late 1960s, Smigrod moved to the Rosement neighborhood of Alexandria in 1982. During the years 19871988 Smigrod began photographing the local children in their natural habitat. Rosement, a neighborhood comprised of tree-lined streets, front porches, and ample greenery as described by Smigrod, provided a stage-like setting for the purity of childhood and the background in which she would document her subjects both from 19871989 and again in 2007 and 2008. It was within this environment that children were seemingly free of the boundaries, concerns and constraints of the adult world and in which Smigrod, in the late 1980s, captured moments of childhood. My world became a series of still images played out on the sidewalk beyond my front door, says Smigrod. In the summer of 2007, Smigrod realized that twenty years had passed since she began her project and decided to once again photograph her original subjects as they returned to Alexandria during that summer and the following one. These adults, now ranging in age from 23 to 32, represent a random sampling of middle class American society.
Within the exhibition Neighborhood Watch, Smigrods photographs focus on viewing and reviewing a selection of her twenty original subjects, paying particular attention to their evolution as well as the importance and deliberate nature of photographing the subjects in their original environment. While the subjects have grown and matured with time, Smigrod pays close attention to the common threads that link the group. Rather than simply displaying a series of portraits evidencing the passage of time, Smigrod is dedicated to acknowledging each participants voice. Each subject was asked to express in writing his/her reflections on their thoughts, hopes and dreams of both twenty years ago and today. The reflections of Jake Dingman, pictured above, culminate this section of the exhibition. Additional selections of image and text pairings from this series will appear in The Washington Post Magazine, June 28, 2009.
The exhibition continues focusing on the celebrations of traditional American rituals such as Fourth of July, Halloween, and back porch birthdays. Recorded throughout time as they are played and replayed, these moments commemorate the iconic rites of childhood. The exhibition concludes with vintage prints from Portraits of Innocence along with images that underscore the importance of place. Front and back porches, back yards, and other theaters of childhood combine to create the environment in which the roots of identity are established.
As current Professor of Photography at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, Smigrod received her M.F.A. from the George Washington University and her B.F.A. in Photography, graduating with honors, from the College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Smigrod has received numerous awards including the Virginia Prize for the Visual Arts in Photography, Virginia Commission for the Arts in 1989 and the Virginia Champion Award, Marriott Corporation in 1989. She has served as Chair for the Corcoran Photography Department from 1990 2000 and has also been a visiting professor at Swarthmore College and The University of Georgias Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. Her work is also featured in public and private collections such as The Polaroid Collection and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Smigrod is represented by The Kathleen Ewing Gallery in Washington, D.C. Additional information about the artist can be found at www.claudiasmigrod.com