National Building Museum to open HOOPS

Categories: Articles, Press

New exhibition celebrates the power of basketball to transcend place and build community

Public school playground, Sedona, Arizona; 2009. All images © Bill Bamberger.
Public school playground, Sedona, Arizona; 2009. All images © Bill Bamberger.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On March 9, 2019, the National Building Museum opens HOOPS, a new exhibition of photographer Bill Bamberger’s work documenting private and community basketball courts around the country and abroad. Hauntingly devoid of people, Bamberger’s photographs are nonetheless neighborhood and community portraits, reflecting basketball’s global importance and enduring appeal. Opening just in time for the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, HOOPS is on view through January 5, 2020.

HOOPS presents a selection of large-format photographs taken across the United States and in more than 12 countries, from the deserts of Arizona and Mexico to the hills of Appalachia, and from the streets of the Northeast to the playgrounds of South Africa. Also featured are images of local basketball courts, including the Goodman League Courts in Southeast Washington, D.C. Although the game’s standard equipment is simple and well known, Bamberger’s color photographs show that the permutations for a basketball court and backboard are nearly endless. The design and construction of these spaces tell us as much about the communities in which they are found as they do about the game itself.

Bamberger began working on the Hoops series in 2004. Early in the project, Bamberger asked his auto mechanic if he played basketball growing up. “He said yes, and took me to the court he played on as a young boy,” said Bamberger. “It was an abandoned barn with fading red paint and a white wooden backboard. It was hauntingly nostalgic and I thought if I can find such a beautiful court so close to home I can find one almost anywhere.” Fourteen years later, he has taken nearly 22,000 photographs for the series.

“I never photographed the players, finding that the “place” spoke loudly about its users,” said Bamberger. “I could easily imagine the players, and in some cases I met them. But more often in the stillness of the court—photographed in early morning or late afternoon light—I came to know a great deal about a community, its character, and values.”
Bamberger has been photographing Americans and their daily lives for more than two decades. His work explores major social issues of our time: the demise of the American factory, the dream of homeownership, and the challenges facing urban adolescents. For most of his career, Bamberger’s photography has been people-focused, describing communities through in-depth portrait projects.

Bamberger has had solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Nasher Art Museum at Duke University, as well as previously at the National Building Museum (Stories of Home: Photographs by Bill Bamberger, December 2003–March 2004). He was one of 56 American artists to participate in Artists and Communities: America Creates for the Millennium, the National Endowment for the Arts millennium project where he produced part two in an ongoing series about teenage boys coming of age. His photographs have appeared in Aperture, Doubletake, Harper’s, and the New York Times Magazine, and he has been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, CSPAN2’s About Books, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

A press preview will be held on Thursday, March 7 at 10 am, and feature a tour with curator Chrysanthe Broikos and photographer Bill Bamberger. RSVP to Emma Filar at

Images are available at All photos are copyright Bill Bamberger.

The National Building Museum inspires curiosity about the world we design and build. We believe that understanding the history and impact of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, construction, and design is important for all ages. Through exhibitions and educational programs, we show how the built world has power to shape our lives, communities, and futures. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photos, from top: Public school playground, Sedona, Arizona; 2009; Stead Park, Washington, DC; 2006. Photos copyright Bill Bamberger.