The White House with it’s fence that LOOKS formidable from close up, but not so bad when you step back. I like this perspective.
So I’m in Washington for a shoot, a good shoot, a rambling, flowing shoot that wanders for several days from the inside of the district to the edges of the Virginia countryside.
I’m staying in a hotel in Georgetown, close enough to the heart and soul, walkable. Just where I want to be.
I love this town.
“You’ve never lived here,” my friends say. True enough. And I always visit when it’s warm, so it’s hard for me to imagine the gripping cold on my thin hands as they try to reload the Leica, or in this case the Blad.
I love this town because it feels like something is going on. Always. I’m an outsider, a complete outsider and because of this I have a special skill. Naivety. Everything is new. Everywhere is new.
Visitors mass in front of The White House. When I first started shooting here I think this street was still open.
Standing on the street corner in the early morning light. A guy next to me in a tan trench coat, dark sunglasses and the butt of a cigar wedged in his teeth. If I’ve ever seen anyone who looks more like a spy I can’t recall. He must be playing a role? Or perhaps he is a spy, just not worried about looking like one?
I always stay longer when I come to this place. If the assignment lasts three days, I’ll stay four or five, just so that I get some time alone.
And when I say alone, sometimes I am alone, walking solitary, but other times I’m surrounded by tourists, by visitors, hundreds if not thousands of them, but I still feel alone because I’m in work mode. I’m walking yes, but I’m LOOKING. And when I look I can simply disappear.
I can stand in front of them and it is as if they can’t see me. With the Blad I’m looking down and holding it low, so I don’t exist in some ways.
There is much going on. There are many unhappy people, some display their wrath with fire and others with quiet.
I have the Blad and the 80mm, which is what I’ve done 99% of my square work with. Very inexpensive. Very standard. Vanilla. Black and white.
Framing with square is different from any other method. I sometimes have difficulty switching from the square to the rectangle and then back. In some ways, like any other technique outside the standard 35mm rectangle, the square is a gimmick. It really is. It looks different, so there is a tendency to try to get away with things when using it. I’ve done it. I try not to.
The air is thick, hot and very humid. The temperature hovers near 100 degrees. The cameras are hot in my hands and the light has totally gone. Totally. I seek shade and dark places, not because I can’t take the heat but because those are really the only places I can make a picture in this light.
I walk for hours.
My pants are wet with sweat, my shoes are squishing around a little bit. I love the heat, but I walk with the cameras under my arm to try and keep them as cool as possible.
The monuments are a big part of the city, and yes, they have been photographed millions of times. But not by me. And even if I had photographed them before, I would still go back to them every time I visit the city. Not just for images, but for the reason they were placed there in the first place.
Languages. Voices from all over the world are around me, here to see the same thing I came to see. This place means a lot to a lot of different people. In some ways I think this city is nearly forgotten by many Americans. My family never went when I was growing up. Politics cover this place in a residue that is hard to penetrate if you are bothered by that kind of thing. I’m not.
I shoot a roll of color in 35mm and keep framing and snapping with the Blad. I walk the entire day, shooting about three rolls of 120. I can see the images in my head. They are not particularly great “”moment” images, although a few are, but they are a recording of my time in this place at this exact moment, something the spy could use to retrace my steps.
The light is still bad and it limits me, but this is nearly always the case. I look for the strange places where I can work with the splintered light. And then I wait for the sun to sink, for the light to get direction and then I pounce once again.
As the day comes to a close I angle back toward the hotel and dry clothes. I empty my pockets out on the bed and count my take, something I always find exciting. What did I get? The not knowing is what I love the most. The trip home begins in the morning.