Theo Adamstein flanked by photos of a 16-year-old Mandalay soldier and Aung San Suu Kyi, part of the exhibit Exiled: Burma’s Defenders at FotoSpace

On Theo Adamstein’s 16th birthday, he was given a gift that would change his life forever: a camera. “I immediately took to it,” says Adamstein, who spent most of his childhood surfing in the ocean and exploring tide pools near Cape Town, South Africa. “I loved having a vision and concept, and being able to realize it through photography.”

It is no surprise then that by 19, Adamstein had already become a fullblown fine-art photographer, processing and printing his own work in both black-and-white and color and exhibiting his first show, Vanishing Ramps, featuring boat slips and waterways in Scotland. A full scholarship brought him to the School of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York; four years later, he moved to Washington, DC, and started working as an architect specializing in hospitality, retail, and residential design. It was here he got the idea to start a photo lab, called Chrome Inc. (now known as Dodge- Chrome Inc.). “I got to be very involved in the photography world and became friends with photographers, curators, and collectors,” recalls Adamstein. “About five years ago, I remember driving around town, thinking the photography community had changed so much as a result of digital and e-mail and had become so much less exciting and social than it used to be. The [American Institute of Architects] has an annual awards competition for architecture with a gala, and I thought, Wouldn’t it be great for something like this to occur for photography?”

Flash forward to 2008, and Adamstein—with the help of countless volunteers, photographers, curators, partners, sponsors, and museums—launched FotoWeek DC, an annual festival highlighting the work of photographers from around the region, the nation, and the world, complete with events, gallery tours, and lectures. Now in its fourth year, FotoWeek DC boasts some 30,000 to 40,000 participants and exhibitors and has birthed a yearround organization, FotoDC, run out of a combined office, gallery, and library space in Adams Morgan. “The whole thing has been a wonderful surprise,” says Adamstein, who sneaks in time on the golf course when he is not working. “When you look at what we’ve put on in just a few years, it’s really a lot, but we now have an infrastructure in place.”

This year’s highlights include launch parties at FotoWeek Central downtown and at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, with lectures by photographers such as Stephanie Sinclair and Doug DuBois; partnerships with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and PhotoPhilanthropy; Facing Change, an exhibit that includes work by photojournalist Lucian Perkins; and a youth photo contest with The Washington Post. “We are the only arts organization in Washington whose focus is photography and multimedia, and it has become a platform for powerful work related to human rights, social, and environmental issues. Our goal is to evolve into an international festival with Washington as the host city.” FotoWeek DC 2011 takes place from November 5 to 12

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