Lafayette Square, Washington, DC March 2001
In March 2001 I completed an intensive photojournalism seminar with the White House Press Corps via the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. When we weren’t together in discussion or shadowing members of the press, we were challenged to find a subject and create a brief photo essay to present during our final group meeting. I stayed with a friend in Georgetown and didn’t have my own transportation, so I landed on Lafayette Square, if for no other reason than I felt like it was smarter to be as efficient with my time as possible and study something I could get to quickly on foot. It’s also safe to say that, at 20 and having grown up in the quintessential southern American small town, Lafayette Square was for me a decidedly different environment for people watching. These are only 7 images from countless rolls of Fujichrome Provia 35mm film. (I was shooting a Minolta SLR at the time.)
I didn’t climb a tree to take this image – although I aspire to have that kind of courage one day. This was actually a hail Mary shot – I held the camera in one hand over their heads and the strap in the other, fired off a few frames and doubted anything good would come of it.
This is one of my favorite images, even today, in my entire life of shooting thus far. I spent a lot of time listening to Connie and her stories about her past and her reasons for devoting more than three decades of her life to peaceful protest in front of the White House. She passed away on January 25, 2016 – you can read the Washington Post Story here. The squirrel, however, is arguably the star of this frame.
This Mom thanked me for taking their picture as they walked by. She didn’t ask for my information or how she could get a copy. Just, “Thank you,” and a smile. I was surprised, because throughout the week a lot of people, when they realized I was there, moved quickly in the other direction. One father playing with his children even came over and demanded that I hand over the roll of film in my camera – which I did. I thought about this image and the rest of the essay after President Obama was elected in 2008 – I had only the prints at the time and couldn’t put my hands on the case of negatives. After more than five moves since they were taken it took me a while to find them, but I did and eventually had them scanned so that I could share them online. I think about this family often – while I’m not sure of their ages, there’s a good chance one or both of the boys in this photo were old enough to vote in the 2008 election, and definitely of age in 2012. Something about the look on her face is hopeful, and she seems at peace. And it’s almost as if I can hear the boy looking back at the White House saying, “some day…” This image was the favorite of one of my seminar instructors, who at the time was an editor at the Washington Times.
I took both aerial photos from the top of the Hay Adams Hotel with the permission of the concierge. I doubt that kind of access is allowed now, post 911.