THE f STOPS HERE: Tom Wolff at the OAS by John Blee Tom Wolff, known for his great portrait photography, is showing a group of photographs he took in Spain in 1976 at the OAS (17th Street and Constitution Ave. NW). They have the flavor of the country and the alert and sometimes sly eye that marks Wolff’s work. Wolff points out that “Spain has a lot of its vestigial past in common use such as hats, mantillas, fans, wine skins, bull, burros, etc.” All of this is in the photograph of the matador from the back, looking on at the quintessential moment of play between cape and bull in the middle ground. The matador’s coat, elaborately embroidered, and his hat with its stark shape embody the myth as much as the action within the ring. Tom Wolff reminisces: “I had become infatuated with the idea of Robert Frank's 'the Americans'. I liked the work of Cartier-Bresson. I had certain rules. I'd never ask someone to stop and pose. I had to shoot the picture in passing and I shot only one frame, occasionally two. I used a Leica M2 Rangefinder camera. As I approached the intended target/subject I would preset the focus and f stop and shutter speed and just at the moment I'd raise the camera-click.” In these works one feels the passerby seeing something occasionally arresting as in “Calle Postas” where a woman holds up a grotesque mask in front of her face. Also one sees it in “Gran Via” with a man carrying a huge blow-up of a film star’s face. Frequently though it is the subtlety of Wolff’s narrative, his “take” on the ordinary, that frame freezes life into an essence as in “La Carihuela.” Or in “Puerta de Sta. Maria,” where three pieces of stuffed furniture become personages. “Los Perros” is the flip side of the bullfight, two dogs involved in the mystery of life. The bemusement of the bystanders does not have the frenzy of the arena crowd, but has its own narrative joining with the co-joining. Wolff never stands outside of the drama he is focusing on you never feel he is not saying something. These photographs are quite different from Wolff’s recent show of portraits that included the bird’s nest of Edward Teller’s eyebrows. One wanders through Spain in these works accompanying Tom Wolff on his walks from bar to cafe, playing with pinball machines, drinking espresso and anis seco over ice. (Through December 4.)