In the Shadow of Power

Our just published In the Shadow of Power is a penetrating collection
of 92 black and white photographs about life in Washington, DC, by
Venezuelan photographer Kike Arnal.

After scores of books and reports by our groups over forty-five years,
where the premise was that "a thousand words is worth one picture," I
am reminded of the impact of the reverse saying "a picture is worth a
thousand words."

If you want to see the power of these 92 pictures aided by the
discerning eye of a masterful interviewer, visit Brian Lamb's one hour
C-SPAN program about Mr. Arnal's book (

The accomplished photographer Fred Ritchin captured the visual impacts
in his foreword with these words: "In shades of gray the murkiness is
probed, fragments of anguish exposed, painful contrasts fractionally

Mr. Ritchin asked "how government can expect to lead a planet if it cannot properly help take care of its own."

"I was born in Washington, DC," he adds, "and left as a very young
child. I never had any strong feelings about my birthplace. Now I do."

The early, intense reaction to In the Shadow of Power was quite
different than the responses to factual reports about Washington, DC's
tale of two cities. It's the difference between a searching look that
reverberates with its own feedback and a scan of factual renditions
drained of emotional intelligence.

You decide which prompts more engagement.

Week after week the newspapers report cases of dysfunction, corruption,
indifference and harmful delays in the municipal government. They
report less the valiant efforts of local citizen groups striving to
slow the erosion of municipal functions and services. They almost never
report why so many of the wealthy and powerful classes rarely come
close to even a state of noblesse oblige for their adopted metropolis.
Foreign observers of the way our nation's capital is run, and run into
the ground, come away with disbelief punctuated by puzzlement at the
vast resources and their unused capacity here. A few blocks from the
White House are the headquarters of the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund, whose pronouncements describe other
countries as under developed.

There are truly many tales of two cities in Washington, DC. There are
the two cities of wealth and poverty. By and large, Northeast,
Southeast and Southwest Washington cry out for repairs, for affordable
housing, for public protection, for health and retail services. The
other city, Northwest Washington-the part frequented by tourists-has
the private schools and clubs, the gallerias and theaters, the
well-kept homes and grounds befitting the affluent and upper-middle
professional and business classes.

While the city is experiencing widespread gentrification, it maintains
its dubious status as having the highest rate of low-income children in
the United States, the highest child poverty rate, and the highest AIDS
mortality rate in the country. The capital's hospitals, medical schools
and clinics have co-existed with the lowest life expectancy of any of
the fifty states. Scores of countries have higher life expectancy
levels than what prevails in the District of Columbia.

The well-off and the poor do share some common experiences: potholes,
constant sirens, unreturned calls to municipal government officials,
expensive housing and gridlock traffic. The difference is that the
former have the means to mitigate, endure, avoid or override. There
lies the rub. Those who can make change are not part of the daily risks
and desperation so they do not have to be part of the solution.

Henry Allen, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for photographic
criticism when he was at the Washington Post, summed up his reaction:
"This book comes in close on Them, who are not to be confused with Us.
We do well to know as much as we can and should about Them - we're all
in the same boat after all."

Kike's style is not one of overt contrasting photography as in previous
books about the tale of two Washingtons; it is more than artistic
choice, though his photos are taken with an exceptional artist's eye.
His photos, standing alone or connecting to one another without words,
make you wonder and ponder. One can allow them to enter into one's
thoughts and values. Perhaps they may incite you toward a new level of
engagement for the human condition portrayed in this volume is, to be
sure, Washington, DC-based, but it is also part of the grand tradition
of photographers worldwide who have recorded the inhumanity of the few
toward the many through this form of indelible visual communication.

For more information, and to purchase a signed copy, visit

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