Category Archives: Events

DC Inaugurates Streetcar Service (50 years after removing it)

I’m a big public transportation junkie, so when I heard they were finally launching the DC Streetcar on H Street Northeast (a public works project over a decade in the making and long overdue – the tracks have been in place for two or three years now), I was so excited I ran over after work last Friday to see it and ride it only to find out I was a day early! So I satisfied my urge and photographed the streetcar at the Union Station end of the line, catching it at sunset. The shiny new car reflected not only the setting sun but the buildings across the street, bringing the surrounding urbanscape out of frame back into the picture.

DC Streetcar, Union Station, Sunset
DC Streetcar, Union Station, Sunset

Here is a different view of the streetcar, waiting at the Union Station end of the line, looking down H Street. H Street was, fifty or so years ago, a thriving business district catering mostly to a middle-class African-American clientele. Then along came the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and then with the 1980s, the cocaine and crack epidemics. H Street was devastated.

Westbound Oklahoma Avenue Streetcar
Westbound Oklahoma Avenue Streetcar

Obviously now, not so much. It has transformed starting in the early 2000s with the real estate boom. Perhaps the turning point was the creation of a large condominium complex, Senate Square, on the grounds of what was originally a Catholic school and later the Capitol Children’s Museum. Now, pawn shops and lake trout joints are being replaced by artisanal coffee roasters, fancy pubs serving British-Indian fusion cuisine, and cultural outlets like the Atlas Theater and the Rock n’ Roll Hotel (which is not a hotel, but a bar and concert venue). Instead of a Murry’s, the neighborhood is now sporting a Whole Foods.

When finally fully operational (at the moment, the streetcar only runs less than half the length of installed track), the streetcar will connect Union Station and the governmental core of the city to east of the Anacostia River, a long-suffering neighborhood where good jobs and access to quality goods and services have been sorely lacking.

Here a Photographer, There a Photographer…

These are two of the wedding photographers I saw in action on my trip – I saw at least two more that I didn’t capture. All were Chinese – I guess it’s a thing now for Chinese couples to come to famous landmarks ( I saw this in Paris as well when I was there ) to get their wedding photos done. I don’t know if they were actually having their weddings in Rome and Florence, or just getting their pictures taken. I’d have loved to have asked, but the photographers were busy working and I’m not going to interrupt them.

I’m not at all surprised by the first location- the steps of Santa Maria in Aracoeli are a very popular destination spot for wedding couples. They were lucky that it was a quiet day – in peak season the steps are very popular with tourists, including pilgrims climbing them on their knees hoping for divine intercession to heal illness or get pregnant, although not so much these days. There are 124 steps (122 if you start on the right-hand side).

Wedding, Steps of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Wedding, Steps of Santa Maria in Aracoeli

In Florence, this was the scene on the Ponte Vecchio, next to the Cellini monument. I know photographers will go to some lengths to get the shot, but this is really taking it to another level. I also observed a much more conventional photo-taking outside the Duomo early in the morning on another day.

Wedding Photographer, Ponte Vecchio
Wedding Photographer, Ponte Vecchio

The Maryland RennFest

I’m a big fan of the Maryland Renaissance Festival, where people get dressed up in all kinds of reasonably (in)authentic garb and indulge in the fantasy of being in another place and time for the day. Costumes range from Renaissance royalty to fantasy characters inspired by Lord of the Rings and other sci-fi/fantasy stories.

While I often get tarted up in my own RennFest costume (I pass for a lesser lord of the Realm in my velvet doublet and tights), it was hot enough out that I decided this time discretion was the better part of valor and I would be better off in street clothes, just taking pictures. I wasn’t as photographically focused as I’d have wanted to be, pardon the pun, as I had a friend in tow who wanted to take in the sights. This was another photo outing where having the Rollei really came in handy, as people would quite willingly (if not eagerly) pose for the cool camera with the two lenses.

RennFest Fairy Girl
RennFest Fairy Girl

Photographing the fairy-wing girl was a hoot- she saw the camera, geeked out over it, and got even more excited when I pulled out my hand-held meter to take an exposure reading: “Are you metering me?? That’s so COOL!”.

I felt so sorry for this poor boy, out selling floral hair garlands from a hand-cart in the blazing sun. Black feathers in your hair, while they do provide some shade for the face, can’t be the coolest thing to wear when it’s approaching 90F / 35C.

RennFest Flower Boy
RennFest Flower Boy

I did take this one as a candid, since the Maryland Man was so deep in conversation with the lady.

RennFest Maryland Renaissance Man
RennFest Maryland Renaissance Man

The living statue was busy posing, like a statue, and would only change or break pose if you put a tip in her cup. A little girl of perhaps five or six years old was enraptured by the statue, and an adult woman who was monitoring the child had to keep admonishing her (in the gentlest and situationally appropriate tone) “Don’t touch the statue- she doesn’t want to be touched”.

RennFest Living Statue
RennFest Living Statue
RennFest Statue Girl, Profile
RennFest Statue Girl, Profile

Another cast member at the RennFest who was approachable, thanks to the Rollei. He did get a bit distracted by I think a rather buxom young girl in a harem costume passing by just as I snapped the photo, so his expression isn’t what I was looking for.

RennFest Pickle Boy
RennFest Pickle Boy

And yes, if you’re wondering, that’s a Pokemon figurine on his necklace. See what I mean about not hewing to historical accuracy?

DC Pride Parade 2015 – Drag In Its Many Flavors

No Gay Pride parade would be complete without drag queens, just as it would not be complete without a few Dykes on Bikes and some leathermen.

Drag takes on many forms – from “high art” female impersonation to wild genderfuck and anything in between. First, the “high art”. I use that term very loosely, but what I mean by that is this kind of drag aims to present the illusion that you are in fact looking at a woman. Granted, an exaggerated pastiche of a certain kind of woman, but the intent is to present an illusion that maybe-kinda-sorta-in-dim-light-and-a-disco-soundtrack could be believed. When in drag, these queens refer to themselves (or at least the characters they inhabit) in the feminine. Their presentation is not just appearance, though, but it is performance – singing, dancing, acting. While Miss Gay Virginia is not exactly seductive in her appearance, she’s got a title which means she can do more than slap on a wig and paint up a face.

Miss Gay Virginia
Miss Gay Virginia

A specialty in illusion drag is celebrity impersonation. Were it not 30 years on and on the streets of Washington DC instead of a movie lot, I could believe I’m looking at Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Beyond Thunderdome
Beyond Thunderdome

Then you have non-professional drag queens like this one. I’ve seen her at other drag events like the High Heel Race before. She may be someone who qualifies as a transvestite, not a drag queen, and gets dressed up as a woman because she enjoys it and identifies with it. Definitely not a straight guy putting on a wig and a dress as a Halloween lark. She’s in many ways more believable than the pros because she isn’t painting her face to look good in stage lights.

Drag Girl
Drag Girl

Then there’s genderfuck. The general idea of genderfuck is playing around with, crossing, and even destroying preconceived norms of what any one gender is expected to conform to. Anything from some glitter, some makeup and a pair of purple fairy wings…

Purple Fairy Wings
Purple Fairy Wings

… to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters are a national (perhaps even international) organization that combines radical, politically charged drag (men with painted faces, beards, and nun’s habits, with drag names like Sister Imprudentia Vaginismus) and charitable fundraising and volunteer activity. They manage the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco every year, and the proceeds go to HIV/AIDS charities.

Sister of Perpetual Indulgence
Sister of Perpetual Indulgence

This is by no means a complete or exhaustive survey of what drag is, or the practitioners at the parade this year. And if you ask 10 drag queens what drag means, you’ll come up with at least 20 answers, depending on how many cocktails they’ve had before you ask.

DC Pride Parade 2015 – The Marchers

The DC Gay Pride Parade always features a political contingent. This year being an off-year for elections, we saw fewer than usual (last time it seemed like there were an interminable array of political contingents – virtually everyone running for office in DC, suburban Maryland and suburban Virginia was in the parade). I captured two notable entries – V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of Vermont and the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC’s representative in Congress (who can’t vote on anything because DC isn’t a state). She’s always at the Pride march every single year, and has been for as long as I can remember (and I’ve been attending these things for close on 25 years now).

V. Gene Robinson
V. Gene Robinson
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Eleanor Holmes Norton

I’ll put the Boy Scouts under the political banner only because of the ongoing controversy surrounding gay scouting that has dragged on far too long.

Boy Scouts for Equality
Boy Scouts for Equality

What a sign of change in the parade – when I first started attending, there were virtually no children to be seen anywhere, either in the parade itself or even in the audience. Now, not only do you have married gay couples marching, you have married gay couples with kids, and the friends of their kids and the parents of the friends of their kids marching with them. This was I believe the PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays) contingent, with parents and kids just being parents and kids.

Kids with Scooters
Kids with Scooters

Many city agencies march in the parade. It’s not quite San Francisco, where the Fire, Police, and even the Sanitation departments have contingents (the sanitation workers ride those little ride-behind sidewalk sweepers that look kind of like lobsters with brushes for claws). But hey, this year we had the DC Public Library giving out beads!

The Public Library...Beads?
The Public Library…Beads?

And the DC Public Schools had a very large contingent of kids of all genders, gender expressions and sexual orientations marching with their gay and ally teachers. I think it’s terrific when kids are allowed to express themselves and be who they are with pride – marching in the parade means that they’re less likely to end up on the street, homeless, addicted and practicing survival prostitution.

DCPS, Born This Way
DCPS, Born This Way

The United States Military had a very strong presence – each major branch of the service marched, and the grouping was led by a uniformed color guard. Here are some very cute sailors in sailor suits.

In The Navy...
In The Navy…

What gay pride parade would be complete without a float (or ten) of scantily clad go-go boys drenched in glitter, gyrating to a disco beat? Pride has moved upscale with corporate presences from Fortune 500 companies (Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, and here, Hilton Hotels), and they’re not afraid to get their sexy on. Twenty years ago, you’d not have seen any of these groups.

Party at the Hilton!
Party at the Hilton!

Of course, it’s the local businesses that are willing to go all-out in the just-slightly-naughty department. Nellie’s Sports Bar had quite the collection of go-go boys.

Nellies Beach Boys
Nellies Beach Boys

Another thing a Pride parade wouldn’t be complete without: the Leather contingent. Here are four leathermen hanging out in front of the West Elm furniture store by the “Twinks and Otters and Bears, oh my!” sign, tempting passersby to shop for a chair and a sling…

Twinks, Otters and Bears, oh my!
Twinks, Otters and Bears, oh my!

And the perennial favorite, always the first contingent in the parade, Dykes on Bikes.

Boy (I don’t know her real name, but Boy is what she goes by) is a multiple sash winner in leather contests, and has been a fixture around the DC area for a very long time. She’s the one driving the bike.

Boy, Bike
Boy, Bike

Another lesbian couple (I’m assuming, they could be just friends) riding in the parade:

Bright Wig, Bike
Bright Wig, Bike

And to cap it off, a row of Bykes (Dykes, Bikes… Bykes, get it?) parked outside a restaurant on 14th Street at the end of the parade route.

Rainbow Lei, Harleys
Rainbow Lei, Harleys

DC Pride Parade 2015 – On the Sidelines

Here are some photos from yesterday’s Gay Pride Parade. These were faces in the crowd of people watching the parade.

This first picture is the reason why we need gay pride parades still – I was standing on the curb, waiting for the parade to arrive, and this woman carrying this sweet little girl came up to me and said, “She’s a Pride baby – she needs her picture taken! Take her picture, she’s a Pride baby!”. When I put the camera to my eye to compose the photo, the mother turned her head so her face would not appear in the photo, only the little girl’s.

Pride Baby
Pride Baby

These guys saw me standing with my camera and approached, asking to be photographed. They asked me where the photos were going to be used – “Will these be in the New York Times?” I told them I’m shooting for this blog, and they said “you can use our photos anywhere!”. I hope they find this photo and enjoy it!

Besties
Besties

I don’t know her name or if she is in fact a mother, but I’m calling her Pride Mama for all her ribbons and beads.

Pride Mama
Pride Mama

This is my friend, Sak Pollert, who owns Rice restaurant on 14th Street (where I parked myself to watch the parade, as the restaurant is on the shady side of the street in the afternoon when the parade is passing).

Sak P.
Sak P.

One of the waitresses at Rice – she put a rainbow flag in her hair like a chopstick.

Rainbow Waitress
Rainbow Waitress

I think this guy is one of the busboys/kitchen staff at Rice, out to watch the parade. I loved his Grumpy Cat T-shirt.

I Hate Mondays
I Hate Mondays

I don’t think this guy actually had anything to do with the goat in a trench coat sign behind him (I think it belongs to the guy in the black t-shirt to his left). When he saw me composing the image, he straightened up, made eye contact, and posed.

Boy, Goat Sign
Boy, Goat Sign

This young lady was standing next to me for a while, and I wanted to get a photo of the shirt with that caption.

Right Side of History
Right Side of History

This gentleman was all decked out in rainbow finery (if you call tons of sequins ‘finery’). He was certainly in the spirit of the day! Not visible except by interpolation were his six-inch platform heels.

Rainbow Top Hat
Rainbow Top Hat

I titled this one “Apres Parade” because I caught these two as we were all leaving the parade, heading home after a long, hot, fun day.

Apres Parade
Apres Parade

This was another experiment photographically. I shot the whole parade using my Helios 85mm f1.5 lens. This is the second time I’ve shot the parade with this lens – I did it for the first time the last time I photographed the Pride parade, and the lens was brand new to me then. It’s a bit of an oddity because it’s manual focus and it uses a pre-set aperture – unlike modern all-automatic lenses, this one you have to tell it to stop down the aperture on the lens by turning a separate ring. The lens has a particular signature to its look – when focused and configured properly, it produces a “swirly” background (most visible in the “Apres Parade” image in this post, and several others (Bright Wig, Bike and Miss Gay Virginia) in an upcoming post. The lens is big, heavy, a bit slow to use, especially because of the aperture mechanism, and exposures are sometimes a little off because there is no communication between the lens, camera, and flash. The “swirl” is something I’m still debating if I like. I might need to just shoot more with it to decide.

Photoworks 40th Anniversary Gala and Fundraiser

Photoworks 40th Anniversary
Signature Gala

Saturday
February 21
8-10 PM
Photoworks Gallery @ Glen Echo Park

Silent Auction and Photography Raffle
Champagne and Desserts
Black and White Attire Suggested

Come Celebrate the Photoworks Community!

Step 1: RSVP lgmphotoworks@gmail.com
Step 2: Purchase your Gala Ticket

2 Ticket Options
Platinum Gala Ticket
$150 ticket admits 1 and includes SIGNATURE PHOTOGRAPH

Silver Gala Ticket
$50 ticket admits 1 person to the event

Click Here for Ticket Purchase

Final Notes:
1. Space is limited!
2. We recommend that you purchase your tickets before Feb 7th
3. Visit www.glenechophotoworks.org to purchase tickets
4. RSVP lgmphotoworks@gmail.com to save your spot

Questions? lgmphotoworks@gmail.com
Visit us on facebook at glenechophotoworks

I will have a piece in the fundraiser:

Two Streetlamps, Reflections, Glass and Steel
Romeo & Juliet