On October 17th, Washington DC held the 2020 Women’s March. I’m grateful to have been able to attend since my first one in 2017. A lot has changed since then. First of all, the women’s march in 2017 was in January and I remember it being pretty cold. People were walking on an icy reflecting pool and I even witnessed some people falling through the cracks. I remember crowds of people standing by the Lincoln Memorial but no one had any concern of social distancing or face masks. This was my first time attending anything like it before and I did not know much about protest/march/event photography.
For the 2020 March, I felt a lot more comfortable approaching people with my camera and I realize how my images speak louder than words. I tried my best to get unique angles while focusing on the crowd but concentrated on details that could be easily overlooked.
In general, it felt like this group of people wanted their voices heard and they were not going to back down from anything. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed a month prior to the march and soon after there was already a supreme court justice nominated as a replacement. These women were vocal about reproductive rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, and more.
The March started at Freedom Plaza with a kickoff rally and starting point for everyone to meet. Most everyone I saw there was wearing a face mask.
Before I knew it, everyone around me started forming into a line and somehow I ended up being at the very front of it. It was so cool how everyone just came together so quickly.
I typically read non-fiction or biographies. Books that make me feel good and inspired. Authors like Eckhart Tolle, Michael A Singer, and Brene Brown fill my bookshelf and are books that I read over and over again.
I also enjoy listening to Audible books when I’m driving or just casually walking around creating pictures. In particular, biographies where the author reads the book themselves. In that way, I feel a lot more connected to the person and comprehend them better when I can hear the inflections in their voice.
There was a point where I tried to read more books on art. But for some reason, those never really stuck with me. They weren’t about photography, but art in general. I’ve even read a book about creativity from a dance choreographer. I just didn’t connect as much with those books.
So earlier this year in March, when the Coronavirus quarantine came in place to those of us in Northern Virginia, I found way more time on my hands. I decided that I would take that time to improve my photography skills. I bought a CreativeLive membership that gave me access to such great content. Just like with Audible books, I really enjoyed listening to photographers speak about their images. I’m currently in the middle of a 24 hr Lightroom class. It so detailed and I’m learning so much every time I sit down to watch these videos.
But sometimes, I just don’t feel like being in front of a screen. I spend most of my days sitting at the desk and sometimes all I want to do is have a good book to cuddle up to and just enjoy. So, I started looking into art books again with a focus on photography.
Up until last week, I didn’t even realize how many books I’ve ordered and consumed during this quarantine. It’s so funny because I have so many more on my Amazon Wish List where I use it as a place to bookmark the books I want to get in the future. For some reason, I can’t handle having books wait for me on my bookshelf.
So in case you’re like me with a passion for photography and want to learn more about it, here are the books I’ve read in the last few months about making pictures.
The Soul of the Camera: The Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making
by David duChemin
I started out on my photography book search by googling some book recommendations and somehow I stumbled onto the fact that David duChemin was having a sale on his books. I had heard of him before and knew he was a great author. I believe out of all his books I saw on Amazon, this was the one that interested me the most. I had never imagined a camera having a soul. I’ve thought about photographs having souls, the photographer obviously has a soul, but not the camera. So I picked it up.
This is a hardback book that has more images than text and a majority of the images are portraits. I’m not usually a portrait photographer but I’ve become more and more interested in incorporating people into my images. So I thought it was interesting how he has presented his ideas. I have not studied portraiture as much so I think some of the ideas he has can apply to all genres of photography considering I have heard some of them before. Others were brand new to me.
I copied down some of the more striking quotes to me. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Perfection is counter human”
“Maybe that’s why we chase perfection. Maybe we do it because it’s so much easier to define.”
“Knowledge of the subject leads to make openness, more recognition and this makes more opportunities for strong photographs.”
Sorry, long time no blog. I realize that my last two blog posts were about the Black Lives Matters protests in Washington DC. It is such a large subject to document and I really wanted to frame the posts in a way that wasn’t political but my experience at each of the protests I had gone to. But after a while, I was not sure how to transition away from that. I had gone to more protests and wanted to share the images, but I did not know how to present the images in a different way. One thing led to another and I sort of felt like I was in a creative rut. So I just didn’t write any blog posts and barely went out to create more pictures to share.
Scenes of DC on 6.19.2020
BUT I’M BACK BABY! After spending some time for myself and reflecting on the type of work I want to create, I found myself getting more excited about capturing images and sharing them.
But to automatically switch gears from the protests posts to my favorite road trips from Washington DC, seemed a bit of a weird transition. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite road trips blog post about 70% done already and that will probably be the next post after this one, but I figured this blog post can give a little update of what has happened since last time I blogged…
Monday, June 1st morning was the first day I went out to the White House in months. I don’t usually spend too much time photographing the iconic residence because honestly, it’s just not in the best location for sunrise/sunsets. That’s it.
But after a weekend of Black Lives Matters protests, riots, and looting, I had to go. I knew the city was going to look very different than it did just a week ago. So I woke up early in the morning to see if I could capture some of the rioting aftermath.
(L) Cash register found on the sidewalk (R) Broken glass storefront
It didn’t take long to find damage. I knew the White House was the epicenter of the weekend so I had planned to drive around until I found something. Turns out, I could have parked my car anywhere around there and see the destruction.
Windows smashed in from riots along Vermont Ave NW
I noticed a lot of people cleaning up the shattered glass of business storefronts and graffiti on walls while other people were making sure it doesn’t happen again by putting up boards over windows.
The morning after a lot of rioting and looting.
(L) DC Fire & EMS putting out fires from the night before (R) Graffiti seen on the street.
But going in the morning was not enough. I didn’t want to just create images of the wrecking, I wanted to photograph the protest. I wanted to photograph the people, emotions, and voices of the protest. Later in the afternoon, I found myself driving back into the city.
For the most part, it was peaceful. People chanting “George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe,” and “No Justice, No Peace“. Most seemed determined to have their voices heard, others were there supporting them.
In the past few weeks and even days, I’ve started realizing all the things I used to take for granted. I used to take for granted meeting up with a friend for lunch. I never even considered the fact that I would be unsafe walking past someone on the sidewalk. I took for granted being able to run to the grocery store real quick when we ran out of eggs. Now it’s a lengthy discussion with Andrew as to who’s going to go, what we want to eat for the next couple of days and if we have all the ingredients, fun snacks and even to make a note to look out for toilet paper (which we’re running dangerously low on!). Needless to say, it’s a crazy time where I’ve been feeling a lot of ups and downs. When I’m feeling up, I am productive doing things that make me happy.
A few images from an expired roll of Porta 400 film from cherry blossom season. I got these images developed from PhotoVision.
When I’m feeling down, I try my best to journal or write at least write down the things that I’m grateful for. Going on neighborhood walks has helped. Sitting down and expressing my feelings out to Andrew or friends on the phone has been great too. I’m still constantly thinking about what’s going to happen after all of this is done, when it’s going to be done but I just know all this uncertainty can’t be answered right now. When I catch myself feeling like this, I try to remember how I’m blessed to even have my health and almost instantly feel better.
From a walk on the Mt Vernon Trail before the stay at home order in Virginia.
I’ve also realized that every time I step foot outside my house, I’m concerned about the coronavirus. Even if it’s just to walk Frankie, I’m on the lookout to see who’s about to come near us and I feel so disturbed having those feelings. This has also hindered my photography. I’m not going out nearly as much as I used to but still feel the urge to capture images. I’ve taken a few pictures around my neighborhood and surrounding areas which has been nice.
Our local grocery store that I can walk to.
One day, Andrew and I just needed to get out so we decided we’d go fo a car ride. It was great to get out but so weird to see the streets of DC so quite. Frankie loved the little outing too. I also need to make a mental note that whenever I leave the house, I should bring my camera. I want to get better at that, especially since it doesn’t happen very often.
We didn’t get out of the car. Just enjoyed the views from inside.
While I’m home, I’ve been working on a few personal projects. One project that I’ve mentioned in my newsletter and on Instagram is that I’ve been scanning old family pictures. Luckily, my mom gave me a few photo albums before everything really broke out so it’s been keeping me busy. I’ve also taken the time out to scan images from high school.
A few family scans
But a majority of the time I’ve been trying to learn more. I want to take this time to try to improve my own photography. I love watching youtube videos of other photographers and attending webinars. I’ve learned that one thing that I don’t want to take for granted now is all this extra time we’ve been given. No more time spent stuck in traffic, no more time even commuting anywhere or even running mindless errands has given me so much “extra” time. All those things that I use to say that I would do if I had more time, I’m going to try to do them now!
I’ve also been going back and editing some older images. (L) Our first snowstorm in March 2018. (R) Surfer in San Diego in January 2019
But I think one of the most rewarding experiences so far has been running again. It’s been a great release for me. Andrew and I used to run a lot together when we first started dating. But after I ran a half marathon in 2015, I haven’t ran much. Running now has shown me how much stronger I have gotten over the years just by working out at the gym (which has now been replaced by virtual workouts). But in general, I feel less winded and my mile has definitely gotten faster. I am starting to feel really good when I go out for a run too. After all of this, I’m not sure if I’ll still continue running. But for now, I’m am grateful to be able to concentrate more on my health.
That’s all from me. This update was kind of all over the place with all the things I’ve been thinking about and doing but I hope you enjoyed it. Sending you much love and well wishes. Stay safe!
PS If there are any particular blog posts or photo content that you’d like to see from me, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to use my skills to try to make you feel safe and more comfortable at home.
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a few friends for a photo walk but with only film. I was pumped.
We met at the Hirshhorn Museum and made our way to the National Gallery of Art where we spent a good amount of time photographing each other and the area.
On the way to NGA, I was surprised at how well this turned out. I watched him get his food from the food truck and sit down at this bench to eat his hamburger. When I captured it, I knew for sure I missed it because I didn’t look through the viewfinder. I just kind of pointed and hoped everything was lined up. If I had to do it over again, I just wish I didn’t get the white plastic bag sitting next to him.
By the way, none of these images are edited. Straight from the negatives.
Film photographers in the wild! Candid portraits of Quyen and Amanda outside the National Gallery of Art.
3/4ths of the film crew, Albert, Me and Amanda. Some call us the A-team. JK. LOL.
Amanda and I originally connected because she was the photo teacher at my old high school after I graduated of course! So crazy how small the world is.
On the way to our next photo location, we found this building that had all this steam coming from its side. We obviously had to stop and capture a few photos too.
All these images were taken with my Canon T70 and expired Porta 400 film.