Surrendering to Serendipity: My Year in Photography

I like wandering the city taking photos. I’m a chronicler, a recorder, pursuing the things I am interested in – city life, the arts, travel and strong horizontal lines.

And in 2012, I got to do so much of what I love – taking boozy Instagram shots of art gallery shows, capturing photos of bike culture and recording life in this city, from protests to performance art.

Here are my favorites from 2012.

iPhone Impressionism

It was the year of iPhone impressionism, where I used Instagram, Flickr, Slow Shutter and other apps to capture the city around me. When I take photos, I’m not looking for realism – I’m looking for symmetry and beauty in the urban environment. I’m showing an idealized Washington, a place of warm tones, strong lines and order.

Taxis on 17th St

there is a light that never goes out

F St from above

Late in the year came the controversy over Instagram’s odious Terms of Service. That inspired me to check out the newly updated Flickr mobile app, which has great filters like Narwhal (seen below) and doesn’t shrink your pictures down to tiny squares.

performance art at the Hillyer

My New Year’s Resolution is to use Flickr more and Instagram less.


The bike community is the friendliest and most open group of people in the city. From the bike ambassadors of WABA to local bike stores to just fellow riders on Twitter, they are a community that is open to anyone on two wheels. I’ve been glad to contribute my photos whenever asked. Look for this photo in the Bicycling in Virginia Map.

Look for this in the Virginia DOT Biking Map

While this little Instagram pic was in Momentum, my favorite bike mag.

biker along Potomac

I also took photos of the Diamond Derby in Crystal City, Bike to Work Day and the beer-soaked Tour de Fat.

But I’d like to do more photos like the one below, focused on biking lifestyle in the city. It’s sexy and fun.

Fashionable bikers


OccupyDC met an ignoble end in the spring, pushed out the parks they had trashed and fading away to deserved obscurity. The Tent of Dreams was taken down and replaced by… nothing.

Ironically, a photo I took at one of their anti-capitalist protests appeared in America at Work, an Atlantic magazine slideshow.

Protesting against real oppression was Pussy Riot. These jailed Russian rockers inspired protests in DC, across the street from the Russian Embassy.

pussy riot protest


Protests also took place at the Supreme Court in March, when the court heard the case against Obamacare.

Obamacare protesters

Supreme Court Police


You are missing a lot if you don’t take part in the DC arts scene through events organized by the Pink Line Project and other local promoters. They’re creative, authentic and fun happenings that take place in the rapidly changing city. Like getting married seven times in one day, going to a breakdance party in an abandoned building or seeing a whole office building filled with art.

breakdancer at Blended

Philippa Hughes and BK Adams

Occupeep McPherson Square at Artomatic

DCist Exposed

One of my photos was selected for DCist Exposed, the annual photography show. It’s a great event, where you get to meet tons of local photographers and look at interesting pictures in a hip downtown gallery. This photo is from the post-earthquake inspection of the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument DCist Exposed

Road Trip!

Don’t call it a midlife crisis but over the summer I took several weeks to drive around the country. I did a big loop, from DC to NC to Austin then to west Texas, Santa Fe, Moab, Colorado and then the long boring drive back.

road trip map

Austin in the morning

outside Marfa, TX

shack in Glenwood Springs, CO

Photo Coordinator for DC Shorts

I’ve been a part of the DC Shorts Film Festival for most of its existence. In 2012, I had the opportunity to be the Photo Coordinator for this annual festival of short films and screenplays. I was the photographer wrangler, working with a talented bunch of local photogs to capture the magic of this special event.

filmmakers at the DC Shorts Film Festival

Ed Wittmixing drinks

2013: The Year Ahead

If 2012 was the Year of iPhoneography, then what will the new year bring? I plan on getting away from Instagram and using other mobile apps like Flickr and the awesome Snapseed. I plan on taking just as many – if not more – mobile pics but I’d also like to make more use of my “real” camera. And I plan on being a part of the local photog scene, with great groups like InstantDC.

But mostly I plan on being guided by serendipity, of being open to happy accidents and interesting imagery, like in the photo below. It was cold and the sun had just set but the light was a beautiful purple color. Using SlowShutter and my iPhone, I got this picture which makes Silver Spring look romantic and mysterious. Which it is not. That’s the magic of photography, if you’ll surrender to it.

Silver Spring Metro

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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