Monday, September 24, 2012

Jessie Cohen: An Eye for Animals

Where: National Zoo

When: through December 31, 2012

I've never been to an exhibit at the National Zoo before; at least, I've not been to see an exhibit that wasn't an animal.  This small selection of photographs is in the Zoo's visitor center, very close to the Connecticut Avenue entrance.

Jessie Cohen worked as a photographer at the National Zoo for 30 years prior to her death in 2009.  This is a tribute to her, rather than simply a collection of wildlife photography.  Her work is stunning; the photography is beautiful and her ability to capture the personalities of a wide range of animals was amazing.  A particularly moving picture is one of Ling Ling, captured in the spring time, under a willow tree.  The fact that I visited only a day after the death of the Zoo's giant panda cub made the photo all the more poignant.

Along with the excellent photography is a collection of quotes, both by Cohen and by those who knew her.  "Patience, practice and sharp eyes are the basic ingredients of all good zoo photographers," Cohen said, and I think you can apply that description to many other endeavors as well.  Reading what her colleagues wrote about her gives the display a personal touch that goes beyond the photography.  It's a shame that more people won't see this exhibit, given its location.

Verdict: Make an effort to go see this, if you're in upper Northwest.  If you're at the Zoo anyway, you owe it to yourself to take a few minutes at the beginning or end of your trip.

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