I was downtown DC the day of the March For Our Lives gun control protest. I wasn’t actually there to document the march – I was there to see it and experience it, but not even as my primary goal for the day, so I didn’t shoot a ton of film. Regardless, when I arrived at the parade route, the students and parents from Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Florida were passing the intersection where I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue. It was truly moving to be there amongst them as they marched past. I’ll let the images speak for themselves, and just add that the closing image of the series says it all – Don’t just march, VOTE.
For those interested, I shot the entire series on my Mamiya RZ67 with the 65mm lens, which was really the perfect lens to use for this – I had enough room to get groups and action, but I could still get close up and isolate individual people. Film of choice was the classic documentary film, Kodak Tri-X.
Given the polarizing nature of the current president’s personality and demeanor, it should be no surprise that he attracts a LOT of protestors. There are always protestors outside the White House – for as long as I can remember, there was a 24/7 anti-nuclear weapons vigil in Lafayette Square, going back to at least the Reagan administration. The woman who spearheaded that protest has since died, so now the round-the-clock vigil encampment is immigration themed, if I recall correctly.
I don’t usually attend protest rallies or photograph them, given that they can be very sensitive events and I don’t want to be associated with anything that might go wrong when two opposing groups confront each other. Fortunately this is a rare thing in DC, but it does happen.
I was out playing tourist/tourguide with some out-of-town friends over the Martin Luther King Birthday holiday. We walked from the Air and Space Museum up Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House, then on to the Washington and Lincoln Memorials before finishing at the MLK Memorial. Outside the Renwick Gallery there was this character:
Inside his white box, he was playing the harmonica through a portable amplifier. There was no discernible connection between his song choices and the overall theme of his demonstration, so I don’t know to what extent he was consciously protesting, making social commentary, or just serendipitously expressing the zeitgeist because his meds were wearing off.
Outside the White House was a different matter, and a much more pointed display of discontent. This was right after the president had made his “shithole countries” comment, so much of the signage centered around that.
I chose this image because of the profoundly ironic juxtaposition of the happy tourists posing for a family photo in front of the White House with the protesting woman in front. This is something you will experience here in Washington that I don’t think you see many other places – the cognitive dissonance of “oh look, we’re jazzed to be here!” immediately adjacent to “I’m righteously indignant and I’m not going to take it any more!” expressed over the exact same subject.
One good thing about photographing protestors is that if you want to get better at “street” photography, they’re a great subject to practice on, because they absolutely want their pictures taken to get their message out to the larger world.
Last weekend I took an excursion down to the National Gallery of Art to do some book shopping in their bookstore. I brought the Lomo Belair with me to play around a bit.
The cafeteria and bookstore for the NGA is below ground. There’s a great big window that looks out at a fountain that cascades from the plaza at street level above, and transforms what could otherwise be a dark and oppressively cavern-like space into something almost airy.
Also directly above the cafeteria and facing the waterfall are the glass pyramidal skylights. They’re not true pyramids, as they’re actually irregular tetrahedrons (four-faced geometric structures with each face being a triangle).
Contrasting to the brutal modern geometric structures of the cafeteria and the East Wing (itself a wedge-shaped structure designed by I.M. Pei and completed in the 1970s), the original gallery building is supremely neoclassical, designed by one of the late-19th/early 20th century’s greatest American architects, John Russell Pope. The marble staircase shown here has the sweeping grandeur and majesty of a European royal palace.
The images as you see them here are an interim step- my plan is to make platinum prints from all of them. The originals are shot on 2 1/4 inch roll film, so prints directly from the in-camera original film would be quite small – 2 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches. I want to make slightly bigger prints, and I want to try out making digitally enlarged negatives with another technique I recently came across for the digital negative process. I’ve been around and around with making digital negatives for a while and never been especially happy with my results. All the techniques I’ve seen and tried so far are rather labor-intensive and involve making several rounds of test prints just to develop the adjustment curve needed to make the negative print well in pt/pd.
I came across a video from Bostick & Sullivan that explains the process quite simply and clearly, and the website provides you with a downloadable pre-made curve for adjusting your negatives to make them suitable for pt/pd printing. I’ve made the appropriate digital files from these images, and the next step will be to print them over the weekend and try making my prints from them. I’ll post the results of the printing session as soon as I have them.
Here is the video from YouTube:
And the page to download the curves for Pt/Pd, Cyanotype, Kallitype, and Van Dyke:
This is a case of where the mechanics of photographing lead to something emotionally resonant in a powerful way – the blurred moving man under other circumstances could be considered a flaw, but here becomes a metaphor.
The monument is adjacent to where Wisconsin Avenue crosses over the C&O Canal in Georgetown. It is effectively a zero mile marker, although not precisely, as the canal continues a few hundred yards past the marker to empty into Rock Creek. It commemorates the construction of the canal. I caught it right at “magic hour” when the sky is just dark enough that it matches the ambient street light, but is not so dark as to lose all detail and color. Here it has a wonderful indigo glow. And no, no flash was used in the making of this shot- this was purely ambient light from the street lamps and the sky.
More specifically, the Georgetown neighborhood. Georgetown may be many things (incredibly overpriced, a tourist trap, insanely busy and difficult to navigate because they refused the Metro when the system was being built) but it is very vibrant and there’s always something going on. It still retains much of the late 18th/early 19th century architecture from when Georgetown was actually a separate city from Washington DC, and has a very distinct feel. I like getting out and photographing there, especially at twilight into the sunset hour, because Georgetown’s position on the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac really captures the light of that hour like no other part of the city.
This is looking east along M Street, one of the main commercial corridors in Georgetown, from the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. The sun is setting, the light is fading, and the traffic and street lamps are glowing with the first hints of night lights.
The cyclist is moving just fast enough to be blurred as he passes through the scene.
Here is the famous Farmers and Merchants Bank at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets. This is an absolutely iconic structure in Georgetown, and is instantly recognizable around the world to people who have visited Washington DC.
I love the dull gleam of the gilded dome of the bank catching the last rays of the sun.
And here is a glimpse of Georgetown’s industrial waterfront past, where the C&O Canal carves its last yards of waterway through the city before meeting the Potomac River, and where the warehouses for tobacco, wheat, corn, cotton and local products were stored, bought, and sold at the last navigable port on the Potomac.
Today, fancy boutiques and high-end condos line the canal, the smokestacks of power plants remaining as decorative follies to remind us of the town’s industrial past.