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Upcoming National Building Museum exhibit to center on community basketball courts

“I never photographed the players, finding that the ‘place’ spoke loudly about its users”

Stead Park in Dupont Circle (2006)
Bill Bamberger, courtesy of the National Building Museum

Next month, the National Building Museum plans to launch a photo exhibit called “Hoops,” spotlighting work by Bill Bamberger that depicts outdoor basketball courts in the U.S. and abroad. Bamberger’s shoots, which began in 2004, depict courts without people, focusing instead on places and communities. The exhibit opens on March 9 and runs for 10 months.

The photos show “basketball’s universal appeal and ability to dissolve demographic, ethnic, and regional barriers,” the museum notes in a release, adding that the exhibit will kick off in time for the NCAA’s March Madness tournaments. Bamberger’s pieces include local courts, like one at Stead Park in Dupont Circle and another at the Goodman League venue in Barry Farm. Other locations range from Arizona and New Mexico to Appalachia and South Africa.

The photos are large-format and in color, illustrating various configurations and designs for basketball courts. One shows the court where Bamberger’s auto mechanic used to play in his youth, “an abandoned barn with fading red paint and a white wooden backboard,” according to the photographer. “It was hauntingly nostalgic and I thought if I can find such a beautiful court so close to home I can find one roughly anywhere,” says Bamberger, who has captured almost 22,000 total photos for the series. “I never photographed the players, finding that the ‘place’ spoke loudly about its users”—in addition to “a community, its character, and values.”

Goodman League in Barry Farm (2018)
Bill Bamberger, courtesy of the National Building Museum

Bamberger, whose photography has probed work, homeownership, and cities, among other themes, has previously been featured at the National Building Museum (“Stories of Home”), the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and elsewhere. (Many of his photos do depict people.)

Be sure to check out Curbed NY’s 2018 photo feature on basketball courts as place-makers.

National Building Museum

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