Marvin Bowser’s photo collection, recently on display at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage (TMCSH) in Northwest, tells the story of his life and travels around the African Diaspora.
Each still, he said, captures the essence of the people, places and plant life he has encountered in D.C. and throughout the world.
On Friday, during the artist discussion portion of a three-hour showcase, art enthusiasts, creatives, business owners and community members listened as Bowser reflected on his artistry and unique career trajectory. Later, to the sounds of live classical music, guests casually walked around the TMCSH lobby and looked at Bowser’s close-ups of fishermen, birds, flowers and exotic landscapes.
“I took a lot of pictures in Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa,” said Bowser, a well-known actor, photographer and older mayoral sibling, who had recently returned from Mexico. “A lot of my shots are of nature. Some of the most captivating shots I took in D.C., like in my backyard, the U.S. Botanical Garden and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I like to get people to slow down and pay attention to their surroundings.”
The Sept. 27 artist talk and exhibit represented a collaboration between Bowser, Busboys and Poets curator Carol Rhodes Dyson and the Heritage Gallery, a brainchild of John El-Badr Cauley at TMCSH. This event, which followed a large exhibit at the Takoma Park Busboys and Poets in Northwest a few months ago, allowed Bowser to expose his work beyond his circle of friends and supporters.
Bowser, a former board member of the Hillcrest Community Citizens Association who has a penchant for gardening, told audience members on Friday that he sharpened his photography skills while serving as an Air Force officer, a Navy civilian, and defense contractor. His collection documents his first trip to the African continent in 2017 and later excursions in other parts of the world.
Some of Bowser’s most prominent pieces, lined up on stands in TMCSH’s Heritage Room, included “Black and Gold,” a rendering of his life partner in Brazil, and a closeup of a bird, captured in Jamaica, that had a black-and-white appeal. The piece next to that froze the ripple created by a Black koi fish that dove into a pond behind Bowser’s Hillcrest home. Down the hall, another photo featured a Panamanian church ruin, while others accentuated the unique colors and shapes of flowers Bowser cultivated in his garden.
With his final large-scale exhibit planned for the year behind him, Bowser expressed plans to delve deeper into his art, opting for more Black-and-white photos, large format prints and printing on different materials.
For this endeavor, he has Carol Rhodes Dyson as an avid supporter. Dyson, curator of the exhibit at TMCSH, said Bowser’s art has the power to positively shape others’ perspectives about parts of the world often misunderstood.
“Marvin’s landscapes had that air of mystery and contemplation,” Dyson told The Informer. “His work is quietly powerful. It captures a moment, and I can imagine being [in those spaces]. Some of these images may not show a material wealth, but a vast wealth of ideas, beauty, colors, sounds, and smells in that place. These are images from the African Diaspora that stimulate a broader vision. Because of Marvin’s photographs, I am encouraged to pack my bags to experience and explore those places as well.”