Take One Home: The Community Collective Photography Show

field school
Blue bus on 15th St – my photo in the show

No cherry blossoms. No sunsets. None of the postcard-pretty Washington, DC, that you’ve seen a million times before.

Instead, ballerinas at rest. Shirtless men outside liquor stores. And a blue bus that catches the eye of a photographer who bikes everywhere.

It’s the Community Collective Photography Show, opening this Saturday at the Capital Fringe Festival. 48 photos of the people and places beyond the monuments, organized by Jarrett Hendrix and Karen Ramsey, and selected by a panel of local judges. Dozens of visions of the real DC, featuring perspectives on city life that will surprise even long-time residents.

The master at work
Jarrett Hendrix carefully hangs photos in the Fringe bar.

photos hanging at Capital Fringe
The photos are framed with white space to draw the viewer in. We want you to get close.

Did you know that the city of Washington used to be square? As conceived by Congress, it was a ten miles on each side, a hundred square miles in total, extending out into Virginia. Sadly, DC lost this territory in 1846.

The photographs in the Community Collective show are all presented as squares, attractively framed, and carefully hung in the bar of the Fringe Festival. Maybe it’s a nod to DC’s past  – or maybe it’s just an Instagram thing 😉

I have a photo in the show. And I’m glad to know many of the other photogs, who I’ve met through InstagramDC. It’s amazing to see their diverse perspectives of the city, every one of them choosing to focus on a different aspect of urban life.

Take one home! The photos are for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to support Fringe. With the prices quite reasonable (my print is $100), it’s an opportunity to add a little square of DC to your walls.

Community Collective Photography Showcase
1358 Florida Ave. NE Washington, DC 20002
Saturday, April 8, 7-11 PM

Next Level Craft at the House of Sweden

#igdc visits the House of Sweden

InstagramDC recently got a sneak peek at the Next Level Craft exhibit at the House of Sweden in Georgetown. This beautiful embassy along the Potomac played host to an exhibit described as:

A mythical wedding, a demonstration, a carnival, a funeral procession, a fashion show or perhaps a combination of all these? A colorful parade of mysterious creatures wander through a fictitious northern landscape carrying unique crafted objects. Who are they and where are they going?

Next Level Craft is not your typical handicraft exhibition – it has its own soundtrack and music video. The renowned young Swedish artist Aia Jüdes has created a playful and different tale of craft, mixing voguing (a modern dance style characterized by perfect, stylized hand and arm movements, acrobatic poses and flamboyant fashion), street art, high fashion, pop culture and electronic music with everything from wool embroidery, weaving and felting to root binding, wood turning and birch bark braiding.

It was a surreal experience, a room filled with bizarre objects and an ever-changing lightshow. Adding to the strangeness was a trippy video of dancing Swedes. So much weirdness for InstagramDC to photograph, as the lights cycled from red to blue.

Best of all, photography was encouraged! It’s a very forward-thinking embassy for hosting this strange exhibit and for reaching out to local photographers to cover it. We had a blast taking pictures of these unique crafts and posing for photos in the weird lighting.

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Ever feel like you're being watched? #igdc #georgetown #emptyhos #nextlevelcraft

That was cool. But getting up on the roof was even cooler.

There was an amazing view of Rosslyn and the Kennedy Center, from a vantage point that few get to see. It was sleeting but no way was I going to miss this experience.

A little snow wasn't going to keep me from the roof of the House of Sweden during the #igdc meetup. That's the Potomac River and Rosslyn in the background.

Kennedy Center

As a writer, it’s inspiring to see creative work. It’s source material for me. I wrote Murder on U Street, my novel about homicide in DC’s art scene, after having similar experiences. So don’t be surprised if a trippy Swedish art exhibit shows up in a future book 😉

 

Photos Beyond the Monuments: Ten Years of Exposed

Congrats to Exposed DC, which recently marked ten years of celebrating photography in Washington, DC. They do so with an annual photo contest that highlights a city that most tourists never get to see – the DC beyond the monuments.

I was fortunate to be in the very first show back in 2006 with my photo “Rose Runs.” It’s the daughter of a friend of mine, captured as she was walking past a graffiti-covered wall in Stead Park near Dupont Circle. The park has since been cleaned up but I liked the contrast between the innocence of youth and the grit of the city.

Rose runs

The advent of digital cameras had drawn me into photography. I took “Rose Runs” with a Canon Digital Rebel, the first of its kind, costing more than $1000. Little did I know how much photography would change in the coming years.

That first show was in a series of rooms above The Passenger, near the Convention Center. The whole building would eventually be redeveloped but, at the time, it lingered on as a bit of old, rough DC. I missed opening night but came by later with some friends – including Rose herself!

me and Rose

What was great about Exposed (then known as DCist Exposed, and tied to the DCist blog) is that it introduced me to a community of digital photogs like myself, including Samer Farha, Jim Darling, Heather Goss, Jen Wade, James Calder, Pablo Raw and other great folks. I never thought photography could be social – until Exposed.

I love good beer. I love photography. I love meeting creative types. So every year, I went to Exposed, even if I wasn’t in the contest. The show moved around the corner and for several years was at Long View Gallery, where it attracted crowds that snaked down the block. And I began taking iPhone photos, with my iPhone 4.

DCist Exposed crowd scene

This is why I am hungover #exposeddc2014 #latergram

Jim Darling

Audience at Exposed DC

DCist Exposed mag

In 2012, my photo of the Washington Monument being inspected for earthquake damage made the show. I had moved up to a Canon Rebel T2i, a faster and more capable camera than the original Rebel.

media storm

I had developed a fondness for black and white. And perhaps a tendency to get carried away with filters in Snapseed. For my interest in DSLRs was being overtaken by mobile photography, like most people. The iPhone had made photography easy, fast and social. Also, I won the Fotoweek Mobile Photography Competition in 2011, which opened my eyes to the value of iPhoneography.

Opening night at the DCist Exposed show

The Exposed parties continued, drawing a huge crowd with delicious beers and treats in 2013, including DC-themed cookies. Exposed became a wonderful blur of drinking and talking photography.

Crowd at DCist Exposed

DCist Exposed cookies

Downstairs at Exposed with @mrdarling

In 2016, Exposed was at the historic Carnegie Library in DC, one of my favorite buildings in the city. I was glad to know so many people in the show, including Angela Napili, Holly Garner, Keith Lane, Noe Todorovich, Bridget Murray Law and Victoria Pickering. I didn’t even bring my Canon Rebel but instead just pocketed my iPhone 6 – it’s good enough. The triumph of mobile photography is almost complete.

Exposed DC

me, Angela, Albert

Late bird misses out on the Exposed cake

Who knew @shutterhugdc spoke such good French? Here he is being interviewed by a French broadcaster about the Exposed show.

checking out the photos

Exposed DC has demonstrated that Washington is more than just monuments, revealing the real place beyond the iconic landmarks, as well as building a community of photographers. So, here’s to ten years of Exposed – and ten years more!

Murder Ballad: Backstage at the Studio Theater

Studio Theater
Studio Theater

How do you build buzz around a new play? If you’re the Studio Theater, you invite InstagramDC to a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming production of Murder Ballad. Studio Theater has been on 14th Street since 1980, in a large building (much expanded) that at one time was a hot dog stand warehouse. Murder Ballad is a rock musical about a love triangle that’s presented cabaret-style in a set that looks like a dive bar.

I was lucky enough to be a part of this exclusive tour. It was a small group (less than a dozen) of social photogs. We met in the lobby of the theater and then were taken on a rapid-fire tour of all four of Studio’s stages, through backstage spaces where they stored costumes and made sets and even up the perilous gantries above the stage. We were encouraged to take and share photos during tour using the hashtag #murderballad on Instagram and Twitter to help get the word out about the play.

Here are some highlights from the tour:

Behind the scenes at @studiotheatre The view from the stage #murderballad #IGDC
If you work at the Studio Theater, you see this stage every day. But for everyone else, standing on a stage is a very unique experience.
scenery construction shop
This is where they make the sets and is one of those rooms that they had a hard time getting us out of. Old tools, wood, sawdust, beautiful light – everyone found stuff to photograph.
in the rafters at Studio Theater
Watch your step! And your head! This is the gantry – about twenty feet above the stage.
looking down from the gantry
Looking down from the gantry at one of Studio Theater’s stages.
Jarrett celebrates surviving the gantry #IGDC #murderballad
Jarrett (IG: brilliantartistry) celebrates surviving the gantry.
A selfie moment #murderballad #IGDC
Photographers love mirrors.
silhouette at the Studio Theater
Studio has a lot of great windows facing 14th Street.

After the tour (we could’ve spent hours backstage, especially if they let us get into the costumes), they led us upstairs to the best part of all – the bar/set for Murder Ballad!

It looks just like a dive bar but is actually part of the play. There we were plied with drinks and bacon-wrapped figs while cast members sang a couple songs from the play. There were also giveaways and special surprises for this VIP event.

Murder Ballad set/bar at Studio Theater
The set/bar for Murder Ballad. I used Snapseed to give this photo a faded look.

Photographers love unique spaces that aren’t open to the public. At the Studio, everything was new and interesting to us – even collections of old props. So if you have something new to promote, consider inviting your fans behind the velvet curtain. Give them access to your hidden spaces. Share with them something special and they’ll do the marketing for you.

Friday Photo: Giant Hand Edition

Snow on the giant hand at @noaa Building 3 #dtss #igdc #snow
The Hand of Noah in front of NOAA Building Three.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a large federal bureaucracy in Silver Spring, MD. I’ve worked there as a contractor in two separate stints – three years in the National Ocean Service (NOS) and a little more than two years (so far) in the National Weather Service (NWS).

If you work at NOAA, you refer to where you work by building number.  In NOS, I worked in Building 4. In NWS, I work in Building 2. The sculpture above is in front of Building 3. I don’t blame you if you’re confused.

According to the NOAA Library:

The sculpture in front of NOAA’s SSMC3 building (at 1315 East-West Highway) on its Silver Spring, Maryland campus is called “The Hand of Noah”. It was given this title by its sculptor, Raymond Kaskey, in 1991, and symbolizes NOAA’s stewardship of the environment.

In NOAA-land, the giant hand makes a convenient landmark. “Meet me at the giant hand,” is a phrase you hear a lot.

I took this photo during a beautiful, short-lived snowstorm in Silver Spring. I’ve wanted to get this pic for years and, finally, the weather and my schedule cooperated. Like the birds in the sculpture, I feel free!

Photographers Not Working as Photographers

I don’t like fall. To me, it means shorter days and colder temps, both of which I hate. But it’s diminishing daylight that really gets to me. As sunset creeps toward 5 PM, it’s like the whole world is coming to an end.

The season has one redeeming feature: changing leaves. In the mid-Atlantic, the green slowly fades into yellows, oranges and reds over the course of more than a month. The trees have just begun to change colors in downtown Silver Spring:

Changing seasons

I took this photo on my lunch hour, with my iPhone 5. But I thought the picture was too busy and didn’t like the trash can on the left. The branch extending across the top of the photograph was what interested me most. I thought it would make a good Instagram shot.

I cropped it in Instagram, then used the enhance button and applied the Walden filter to give it a desaturated look – like a faded photo found in an attic. I liked the creamy blankness of the sky. Lastly, I turned down the shadows to bring in a little more color in the leaves and to increase the contrast between the branch and the leaves. Here’s the final result:

Looking a little like fall in downtown Silver Spring #igdc #dtss

All this took about five minutes, back in my cubicle at work. I added it to a few Flickr groups and a couple days later I saw my photo on Capital Weather Gang, used to illustrate the arrival of fall in DC. And it was the second photo of mine that they used this week.

I work for a government agency but don’t shoot for them – they don’t have staff photographers, a photo library, a photo budget or photo editors despite the fact that we need photos all the time for web pages, brochures and social media. Instead, as a contractor, I write, edit, go to meetings and toil away in bureaucratic obscurity for the agency.

I’m far from alone in this situation. If you check out local blogs or art gallery shows, you will find the work of talented photographers, nearly all of whom have jobs with the federal government or corporate organizations. They’re photographers not employed as photographers. Instead, they’re system admins or technical editors or even senior management.

We live in a visual age but organizations large and small devote few resources to photography. Think what a company could do if it engaged, organized and compensated their own unofficial staff photographers. After all, who could tell the story of your business better than the people who work there?

Like the legions of photographers in other jobs, I’m going to continue to take photos, because I enjoy it. Photography gets me through the seasons, like the dying fall, and it might just deliver me to a future in which photography is recognized for its storytelling potential.

Can sex sell Silver Spring apartments?

I Instagrammed this ad for a The Point at Silver Spring because it seemed so ridiculous. Silver Spring is not sexy. It’s where women in tennis shoes get on trains for downtown DC and where lanyard-wearing feds shuffle off to NOAA.

I know – I work there. The biggest claim to fame Silver Spring has is its failed transit center, a hundred million dollars of crumbling concrete destined to demolition. Compared to the rest of the DC area, highlights are few – except for the $5 gyros, which are awesome.

On my Instagram account, a couple of people commented on the photo. Their profile pics looked familiar… turns out, they’re the people pictured in the ad. They’re actors who were hired for a swingles-style photo shoot to promote the new high-rise.

Social media is a strange world that connects disparate people instantly, just through a casual photo taken on a Metro platform.

And sorry to disappoint you but the sexy singles in the ad don’t live at The Point. Your neighbors will probably be middle-aged government employees working at NIH. You won’t be invited over for champagne by fitness models in evening wear.

You’ll be there. But  she won’t for an apartment cannot give you a different life.

Errandonnee Winter Challenge: Twelve Errands by Bike in DC

I am a weekend cyclist. I primarily use my bike for fun and recreation. Plus, it’s the quickest and easiest way to get around DC.

What I liked about the Errandonnee Winter Challenge is that it recognized the utilitarian aspects of cycling. It’s not about riding vast distances clad in lycra. Instead, the Errandonnee Challenge was to use your bike for 12 different errands over 12 days. While there were also sorts of complicated rules, provisos and mandates (the contest was created in Washington, after all), the idea was to use your bike for everyday activities, highlighting how you can do anything by bike.

I looked at it as an opportunity to use my bike more often. Or, rather, bikes, for I would be completing this challenge on two of them – a Specialized Sirrus and a Breezer Zig7 (a foldy bike).

And I would capture it all with Instagram.

Errandonnee 1: Marie Reed Field
Distance: 2 Miles
Category: Health
Bike: Specialized Sirrus
Remarks: It was a short city ride to the play the beautiful game on this new turf field in Adams-Morgan.

Errandonnee 2: Georgetown Waterfront
Distance: 10 Miles
Category: Health
Bike: Specialized Sirrus
Remarks: There was no way I was staying inside on a warm Saturday. After lunch, I biked to Georgetown to get some sun, then made a loop around the National Mall before returning home.

Errandonnee 3: Gibson Guitar Room
Distance: 2 Miles
Category: Work
Bike: Breezer Zig7
Remarks: The next day, I spoke on a panel about screenwriting for DC Shorts Mentors, a four-week class on filmmaking. The class took part in the Gibson Guitar Room, which is a super-cool private venue near the Verizon Center.

Continue reading “Errandonnee Winter Challenge: Twelve Errands by Bike in DC”

Bikes, Beer and the Arts: 2013 in Photos

“Find a city
Find myself a city to live in.”
Cities, The Talking Heads

In 2013, I didn’t travel to anywhere exotic. I didn’t have any great adventures. I didn’t experience anything particularly unique.

But I was in a city  – adventure came to me. Photowalks, film festivals, performance art, burlesque, comedy, music and biking all could be found in Washington, DC, the city I have a love/hate relationship with. I experienced as much as I could, capturing every moment with my iPhone or DSLR.  Here are my favorite photos from the year, featuring bikes, beer and the arts.

Fun with Flickr

I have really mixed feelings about Instagram. While it’s a great social network, I hate how it shrinks pics down to little squares. I was glad to use the upgraded Flickr mobile app, which provides all sorts of adjustments and filters for iPhoneographers (my favorite filter? Brooklyn).

Continue reading “Bikes, Beer and the Arts: 2013 in Photos”

Friday Photo: Gentrification Edition

Ted's Bulletin at 14th and Swann
Ted’s Bulletin at 14th and Swann, NW, Washington, DC.

The pace of change in this city is breathtaking. The above photo is a brand-new Ted’s Bulletin, a local chain featuring “adult milkshakes” and reinvented comfort food. It’s part of a slew of new development along 14th Street – condos, bars and coffee shops that offer a virtually uninterrupted hipster paradise in the center of the city.

It’s unbelievable for anyone who remembers what this neighborhood was like in the 90s. I lived at 15th and Swann and avoided 14th St – it was nothing but urban blight. You hurried through the neighborhood lest you be accosted by drug addicts and homeless people. And you certainly didn’t go to the other side of 14th – god knows what was happening over there.

14th and Swann was home to a laundromat. On the same block was a methadone clinic. Across the street was a used-car lot and a second-hand store. The neighborhood was gritty and half-abandoned. It had been that way since the 1968 riots and seemed like it would never change. But it did.

For better? Worse? A lot of my novel Murder in Ocean Hall takes place in this neighborhood and the book reflects my ambivalence about the change. It’s undeniably for the better but I also hate that 14th Street has become a playground for conspicuous consumption, a place to buy skinny jeans, eat crepes and go to brunch.

I liked the grit, and miss it now that it’s gone.