The American Dream on 35mm

Recently, I had the opportunity to revisit Washington D.C. My mother and I went on a trip to celebrate my recent graduation. I had only visited Washington once before, and for only a single day. This time, I felt as though I was seeing the city through someone else’s eyes. I soon realized it was the lens of my Canon A1 that was forcing me to really look and really see. This time in D.C., I didn’t pay attention to the beautiful sights as much, but I looked closer at the oddities and the people surrounding me. I began to ponder in my head what makes the city so attractive. The buildings? The food? The oceans of people and languages? No. It is the beauty and the messy all thrown in together that make it so perfect. One second you’re looking at a tent city, filled with trash and rats, and next thing you know, you’re looking at a divine structure built by this nation’s founding fathers. People and buildings alike have a story to tell if only we stop and listen to them.

In an attempt to practice similar techniques as my favorite street photographer, Vivian Maier, I began to photograph everything I saw. From the glorious to the gaudy, I captured what I could. Here is a taste of what I saw:

000075750003.jpg000075750006.jpg000075750014.jpg000075750016.jpg000075750020 (1).jpg000075750017.jpg000075750023.jpg000075750029.jpg000075750032.jpg000075750034.jpg000075820030.jpg000075820031.jpg

The point of this post is, yes, photographing beautiful places and faces has it’s perks. But, let’s get real… there is a lot of hurt and a lot of pain that we oftentimes do not acknowledge as much. For instance, the last photo: a homeless vet. My mother kept asking why I was stopping along the path to photograph a can of overfilled trash or a pair of shoes left on the street or an outdated newspaper. Well, because… who else is doing it? These things, though they seem gaudy or unimportant, are actually what makes up the beautiful cities that we go to explore. They contrast with the beautiful things to make them seem that much more lovely. The overfilled can of trash that happens to be sitting juxtapose to the White House, only makes it seem that much more magnificent.

This city, along with every one, has a story to tell. We can learn and comprehend it through museums, tours, and literature. However, how can we live it? By seeing only the good? No way. By learning to appreciate its realities, we learn to appreciate the beauty. That is why photographing what you feel and see is important. How does that newspaper on the ground make you feel? The elderly woman toting her groceries down the block? The forgotten shoes that have probably walked miles left on the street? These are the sides of photography that need to be seen more. So, here’s to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Happy shooting.