FotoWeek: How did it all begin?

We sat down to talk with Theo Adamstein this week about his role in putting this enormous festival together. If you’re involved in photography at all in the region, you certainly know Theo’s business, Chrome, Inc (now the founding sponsor of FotoWeek), a professional photographic imaging studio which he began in Georgetown in 1982. Five years later he used his architectural background to found Adamstein & Demetriou: Architecture & Design (with Olvia Demetriou, his wife and business partner), an award-winning firm responsible for many of D.C.’s hot spots, including Zaytina, Zola, and Poste Restaurant at Hotel Monaco. Theo has continued to be involved in the local art community, serving on local boards and, as you can see, taking an active role in creating new opportunities for artists.

The idea for FotoWeek percolated up from Theo’s experience in the architecture scene. Every year each chapter of the AIA has a gala to celebrate local designers and their work, and it occurred to Theo that our region had nothing like that for photographers. Aside from the usual gallery and museum shows and limited contests, there was nothing that brought everyone together — amateurs and professionals, photojournalists and fine artists. He called up a couple of friends, successful photographers Paul Fetters and Irene Owsley, who loved the idea and met to brainstorm.

At first, FotoWeek started as just a contest, with a capstone gala for photographers to toast to each others’ work and encourage newcomers to continue working on their skills and bringing new ideas to the table. While there are many photography festivals around the country, few have the award and recognition aspect that Theo wanted to have. Soon the idea evolved, including a corresponding festival, with venues in the region featuring whatever photography work they chose and hosting smaller events (opening receptions, panel discussions) throughout the week. As of today, FotoWeek has over 50 galleries, museums and embassies participating in the festival, thousands of entries into the contest so far (enter now!), and tens of thousands of dollars in awards to hand out during the gala at the end of the week.

Theo described four main goals of FotoWeek DC:

1) To create a real buzz about photography in the region.
2) To create a very inclusive festival, including work from all skill levels, who work in all themes.
3) Although FotoWeek is currently a regional festival, they hope to create enough excitement — and are well on their way — to become a D.C. based national or international photography festival.
4) Most importantly, cultivate a strong philanthropic mission.

As for number four, FotoWeek has already gained a significant number of sponsors for this reason. They hope to create programs that will benefit schools in the area, including collecting cameras to give to children with the intent of encouraging creative outlets. Interested sponsors should contact the FotoWeek organizers to participate.

FotoWeek DC has snowballed significantly from last year, when it was just an inkling in Theo’s mind, to the behemoth festival it’s gearing up to be today. There are even bigger projects in the works for FotoWeek (which we’ll be covering soon), that should all coalesce to make D.C. a national hub for photographers, not only during the one week in November, but continuing on into the future. Theo told us,

I am absolutely delighted to be involved in something like this, and to watch how it’s grown. It’s ten times bigger than I ever expected and it’s been a blast to work with so many volunteers passionate about photography.