Moments Exceptionnels: A vibrant window into everyday life

The travel photography show, delayed by the pandemic, brings viewers to intimate moments in faraway places

Moments Exceptionnels: A vibrant window into everyday life
Travel photographer Marie-B Cilia De Amicis at Washington Printmakers Gallery in Georgetown, where her show Moments Exceptionnels is on display through September 26.

Rich colors and rough textures are front and center at “Moments Exceptionnels,” a travel photography exhibition at Washington Printmakers Gallery, featuring work by Tunisian-born French photographer Marie-B Cilia De Amicis. 

The single-room Georgetown gallery — of which Cilia De Amicis is the president — hosts a new show each month. This month’s display, running through Sept. 26, gives viewers an intimate look at small moments in the lives of people in faraway places: Ethiopia, Mongolia and Turkmenistan, among others. 

The show was originally scheduled for April 2020, but was stalled until this month due to the pandemic, Cilia De Amicis said. The images come from Cilia De Amicis’ more recent travels; she has been to 74 countries. 

The name “Moments Exceptionnels” was born out of the spontaneity of the scenes Cilia De Amicis captures in her work. 

“I don’t look for anything,” Cilia De Amicis said in an interview with The Eagle. “I just see the moment.” 

Gesturing toward her lead image, a vividly colorful scene from Harar, Ethiopia of a woman and young boy, arms outstretched, she said, “If I didn’t turn around at that time I wouldn’t have seen her. It’s really a miracle.” 

Every image in the exhibition has a person in it, but it’s easy to let your eye wander to the smaller details that make Cilia De Amicis’ work so unique. Using Photoshop, Cilia De Amicis has added artificial texture to some of the photos, giving them an almost painting-like quality. That texture, she said, is a way of bringing viewers into the scene. 

“It makes you feel like, ‘My God, I can touch the wall,’” she said.

Cilia De Amicis, who has lived in Washington for 12 years, isn’t a full-time photographer; she also teaches middle and high school French at the Edmund Burke School in Northwest D.C. 

She is also a polyglot. When a woman visiting the gallery mentioned that she was originally from Russia, Cilia De Amicis greeted her in Russian. And when, just moments later, an Italian couple walked in, Cilia De Amicis welcomed them inside with rapid-fire Italian.

In addition to the gallery show, Cilia De Amicis’ photos appear in a book by the same name. The book’s layout was designed to compare and contrast different aspects of life: a baby girl on one side of the page, a young woman on the other. The book also includes some photos created since the pandemic, which the gallery show does not.

Washington Printmakers Gallery is open for drop-in visits on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but appointments to visit on other days can be made by phone or email. The entire collection of photos is also available online.

Cilia De Amicis said she hopes people come away from her exhibition with a greater appreciation for life’s small moments. “We take it for granted,” she said. “We live in such a beautiful world.”

life@theeagleonline.com 

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