‘Our Role Is Documenting the Invisible'

“D.C.’s Got a Thriving Art Scene That Would Surprise a Lot of People”

“D.C.’s got a thriving art scene that would surprise a lot of people,” Washington Post photographer Lucian Perkins told us. “People are really interested in photography.”

Perkins, one of many photographers featured in this year’s FotoWeek DC, has won multiple Pulitzer Prizes for his work, and one of his photos was chosen as 1995 World Press Photo of the Year.

“I really like telling stories about people, and try to give the viewer a sense of who these people are and what they’re going through,” Perkins said. “[I want to] somehow capture something about their lives that other people can relate to emotionally, and as a result, connect to those people.”

A sample of photographs from Perkins’ ambitious collection is currently being featured at FotoWeek DC through Nov. 12. You can find them at FotoWeek Central (1800 L St. NW).

While his range of subjects is extremely wide, Perkins tends to focus on issues-based photojournalism. He has photographed war-torn areas such as Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan: “I see photography as a way to bridging cultures and identifying with others."

He discussed his shift in topic coverage these days -- he's currently working on the collective project Facing Change: Documenting America. “I’m certainly much more geared towards people who are making a difference; that’s my focus now,” he said.

Facing Change seeks to cover under-reported challenges and stories around the United States, such as AIDS hospices, Sept. 11 memorials, and poverty in Louisiana. “Our role [as photojournalists] is documenting the invisible,” Perkins said.

“The change you hope for never happens to the extent that you wish it would. But you do make a difference. People pay attention to your photographs. I don’t have the illusion anymore that my photographs are going stop war, but they might help somebody better understand what happens in a war.”

Perkins went on to discuss some of the changes in the field, including the prevalence of video media: “A still image hits you more on a gut level. Video can do that as well, but it’s a very different dynamic.”

“There’s so much junk out there that it’s hard to filter through to find the great work,” Perkins said.

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