Mine and Jen’s Smithsonian weekend was a crazy world-wind of a trip. It went a little something like this: Fly cross-country and go to bed. See sights and go to bed. Fly back across the country and go to bed. Whew. I wish we had more time to hang around and explore the sights and sounds of DC and the Mall area, but perhaps another time. But, even with our limited time, we packed in quite a bit. Here are some photos from the trip…
Being a surfer for most of my life, I have a special affinity for the ocean and what she offers. It seems the Smithsonian does as well. I was pretty amazed at how detailed and intricate the reef samples were, and obviously blown away at how much time was put into the creation of this project.
You could get lost in the museum all day. There are so many exhibits and cool things to read about, from an 1800’s forensic cold-case to whales and their return to the sea from a land based life. Then it happens. Overload. You’ve crammed so much information into your brain, and have been bombarded with facts and details that make the mind swim, that you just have to leave and seek shelter. Usually a hot sandwich and a pint of beer can do the trick. In our case, we saved that for later and went for a walk around the DC Mall area.
It’s our nature as human beings to want to be together; to be social. Sometimes as a photographer, that can be a curse. The point of a good image is to show a perspective and convey a feeling or idea that really strikes home. How can you do that when you are taking the same photo as everyone else? Well, you can, but it’s really hard. An easier way is to take a shot, then move, change your aperture or speed, and move again. Get low, get high, pan, blur, play! We’re all guilty of shooting the same shot, but if and when we make a conscious effort to be different, the rewards will be worth it.
Warning: Sea Change
The Vietnam Veteran’s War Memorial has to be one of the saddest places in DC. Emblazoned on a wall of polished black granite are the names of 58,267 soldiers that gave their lives. Rather than get into the politics of it, I think the concept of the design speaks for itself.
The wall was built beneath the surface of the earth, separated by polished black granite. Like the knife that was ripping at the heart of America at the time, a gash that would not heal, so too would be the memorial, thus we never forget. The black granite, which is highly polished and reflective, resembles a headstone, serving as a reminder between the separation of the living and the dead. Reading the names, a person’s reflection is always present – a constant reminder of those who once laughed, breathed, and cried as well.
The dates follow the order in which the service men and women were killed or went missing in action, so they are enshrined with those whom they served with forever. The day of first casualties starts in the middle of the memorial in 1959. It leads away like a book, reading top to bottom, left to right. The end of the wall is the halfway point, and leads you back to the other side of the wall, where it reads the same, and finishes next to the start date, thus bringing it full circle.
The wall’s design was an open contest. Because the contest was blind (meaning that judges didn’t know the names of contestants), Maya Lin, a 21 year old landscape architecture student at Yale was selected as the winner. If contestants were required to list their names along with their designs for all to see, there is no way she could have won, being a woman, 21 years old, and of Chinese decent.
The names really hit home. They make the history so current and real, when usually it’s separated by hundreds or thousands of years. Veterans and family alike, can come here, find their son, brother, or fellow soldier, touch their name, talk to them, cry with them, and say goodbye.
I think before any President decides to go to war, he or she should walk these hallowed grounds and reflect on the severity of war, it’s repercussions, and it’s ultimate worth.
As a photographer, I am still coming to terms with invading such a personal moment, but if I can capture some essence of this tragedy, so that it never happens again, then that is something worth doing. I am sure all would agree.
I know – this post seemed a bit of a downer – but it also shows that American can come to terms with her transgressions, admit failure and wrong, and grieve together. The images are powerful and remorseful, but there’s a hope that we won’t fall for the same trappings again (Unfortunately we are currently in one of those trappings.) But if we believe in Winston Churchill…
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”
then we’ll do the right thing.
Let’s hope we’ve tried everything else.
See you down the road.