On a recent trip to Washington D.C. I had some time to walk around and do a little sightseeing. Just short of cherry blossom season, I found that although there were tourists, the crowds were fewer than when I visited with my family last August. Given my single status for the day and the lack of long lines at museums and other sites, I was able to stop when I felt like it and take photos for as long as I wanted to. I could stroll into the Smithsonian’s Gallery of American Craft, the Renwick Gallery right across the street from the White House. I could take a million photos and not feel the pull from the family to hurry along . . . the bored teen and the not-really-interested-in-art husband waiting near the exit. Not that I dislike traveling with the family, I truly enjoy it. But you know how it is, you need to balance interests and temperaments and levels of patience. This day, there was none of that.
So I shot a million photos in the Renwick Gallery and from the street of the city’s historic architectural details. I waited for trucks to pass and crossed against traffic and stood outside of governmental buildings with my camera poised like a stalker to wait for the right light. Once I began to focus on snippets of buildings rather than on the buildings as a whole, I couldn’t stop seeing the swirls, lace, lines and curves of famous buildings along my path through the city. I won’t portend to recall which parts belonged to which buildings nor did I have a clue about architectural styles and whether the beautiful details on the building that houses the U.S. Treasury is of Gregorian influence (it is, just looked it up). I just liked the flow and texture and shadows. Focusing on these parts seemed to take away the significant influence of the building itself and put the highlight on the artistry inherent in the design.
Below is a selection of some of my favorite shots from that day. You can see many of the other photographs I took there in my Washington DC gallery.
I loved the colors and texture of the archway over the road at the start of DC’s Chinatown. So vibrant.
I took many shots of this building, as you might be able to tell. Just was so drawn to the artistry of the detail work. The contrast of the cement and the brick and the way the glass of the windows looked so blue in the bright sunlight.
Next door to my hotel, this building seemed invisible until the right light hit it, then WOW.
It seemed that once I started seeing the buildings in terms of light and shadows, lines and patterns, I had a hard time seeing any other way. And that’s fine. Imagine the minds at work, with blueprints and sketches laid out in front of them, reviewing the minute details of finials and cornices. It made me wonder who decided on the swirling wave design I saw on many buildings. Who put the rubber stamp of approval onto the lacy curves of the Old Post Office? Who decided on the phrasing and naming of the styles? Why was it chosen at that time? I gained a new appreciation for the craftsmanship and historic value of the old buildings that serve to house many of the governmental departments that make up the city. I had to wonder if the people who worked in them every day felt the power of them. I know how easily one can get roped into routine work behavior and how those little details just become part of the big picture of your day, hardly noticed until someone else points it out. I hope someone who works here reads this blog post. I’d love to hear how you felt on the first few days of work, as you approached the entries in the morning sun. Was the thrill there then?
I expect to add more photos of my days in DC during the coming weeks. I stayed at a gorgeous old hotel whose staff allowed me to wander around and photograph some beautiful design elements from a century ago. Stay tuned & come back for more.