by E. David Luria
Cradling the child in her arms, her left elbow thrust forward, the woman stands resolute, determined to protect the baby as she watches her home collapse in an earthquake.
This scene takes place 24 hours a day in Washington DC, one block from the White House, on the grounds of the headquarters of the American Red Cross. It is depicted in the “Motherland” statue by the Armenian sculptor Sacoyan, who crafted this dramatic statue as a gesture of thanks to the American people for the help we gave to Armenia through the American Red Cross during the severe earthquake in 1988.
And it is but one of hundreds of unique, often little-known, photo opportunities that exist here in the nation’s capital, which I call “a photographer’s paradise.” This is a city that has it all: monuments, waterfalls, historic buildings, folk festivals, nighttime cityscapes, unique and varied architecture, abstract graffiti and mural art, fountains, magnificent houses of worship, fabulous museums which allow photography, sporting events, cherry blossoms, botanic gardens, and cascading rapids.
Perhaps more than any city in the country, Washington DC offers many opportunities to practice a wide variety of photographic techniques. Because of building height restrictions enacted early in the 20th century, Washington’s streets, unlike those of other cities, are flooded with light. It is a photography-friendly city, allowing photography in most of its museums and galleries and tripod use throughout the city streets and on the grassy areas of the National Mall, it is the home of the popular FotoDC program, and it was the first city in the country offering scheduled photography training workshop/tours every week at the city’s main attractions, all year long. (Luria’s Washington Photo Safari is one of those training organizations. – Ed.)
The favorite tourist locations in Washington DC offer obvious picture possibilities: the Presidential memorials; the famous view down the Reflecting Pool, the awesome grandeur of the Lincoln statue, the pair of hands taking a rubbing off the Vietnam Wall, the grandeur of the US Capitol building, the fear etched on the faces of the soldiers at the Korean War Memorial, the Army nurse at the Vietnam Womens Memorial trying to keep a wounded soldier alive until a Medevac chopper arrives, or the magnificent view of DC’s monuments from the Iwo Jima Memorial and Netherlands Carillon in Arlington.
But there is so much more to photograph at places often undiscovered by tourists: the tulip gardens at the Franciscan Monastery in northeast DC; the whimsical “Thinker on a Rock” statue at the National Sculpture Garden; the incredible stained glass windows of Washington National Cathedral; the men in the Depression-era breadline at the FDR Memorial; the reflection pond at the National Museum of the American Indian in the golden glow of sunrise; the inlaid bas-relief depictions of famous battles at the Navy Memorial; the poignant vanguard of African-American soldiers protecting their families at the African-American Civil War Memorial in Shaw; and the little-known Titanic Memorial on the DC waterfront, a tribute “to the men of the Titanic, who gave their lives so that the women and children might be saved.”
There are priceless floral displays at the US Botanic Gardens, raging rapids at Great Falls. precious pandas at the National Zoo, misty sunrises on the Potomac River, gorgeous Russian iconography at St. Nicholas Cathedral, panoramic views from the newly reopened Washington Monument, and incredible displays at the nearby Hillwood Museum and Gardens!
Best of all, of course, is that once-a-year, 14-day long phenomenon of nature known as cherry blossom season. These blossoms that ring the Tidal Basin and Ohio Drive are just phenomenal in their pink and white beauty. The cherry blossom season stretches for 2-3 weeks from late March to early April, and the cherry trees are also gorgeous in the fall!
So many of us who live in the city are strangers in our own hometown! Let’s grab a camera. The best pictures are right here, in our own backyard!
E. David Luria is a DC-based architectural photographer, a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, Cultural Tourism DC, and Destination DC. A resident of the Forest Hills neighborhood since 1993, he is founder and director of the Washington Photo Safari, which has trained over 30,000 people in the techniques of travel photography (WashingtonPhotoSafari.com), His images of the nation’s capital appear in over 100 publications and postcards and on calendars of the US Capitol Historical Society.