A monthly series by E. David Luria, Founder & Director of the Washington Photo Safari
National Building Museum
The National Building Museum holds a very special place in the heart of the Washington Photo Safari as it celebrates architecture and the built environment which is how I made my foray into professional photography. Originally known as the Pension Building when it was constructed in the 1880's to provide ample office space for clerks writing out pension checks to Civil War veterans, it is now known as the National Building Museum. It’s certainly a hidden treasure off the beaten path of the National Mall but nevertheless situated conveniently near the city center at Judiciary Square metro. What looks like a bunch of columns and archways gives way to an interactive exploration of how we design, build, use, are inspired by and interact with our concrete brethren.
As your hometown inevitably grows and changes, use your visit to Washington, DC as a chance to interpret those changes through the exhibits and displays. Your kids will love running around what looks like a stuffy museum and being able to touch nearly everything! When you pull out your camera, consider juxtaposing the Roman architecture of the museum alongside one of its more modern exhibits. Frame your photo with a cute little kid in the foreground, dwarfed by the huge faux marble columns in back, capturing the dramatic layout of the museum interior. Then go up two flights of stairs and photograph the entire length of the museum with a wide angle lens.
In drawing up his plans for the city, Pierre L’Enfant imagined “a great church for national purposes” but it took two centuries for his vision to be realized. The sixth largest cathedral in the world was constructed in a mere 83 years. In fact, it was completed just over 20 years ago but has been hosting services since 1912. Built entirely of Indiana limestone, it is such a solid structure that engineers have estimated it should stand - barring earthquakes or nuclear attacks - for at least 1,000 years
Located a short bus ride up Massachusetts Ave from Dupont Circle, the National Cathedral can meet your cultural, spiritual and botanical pursuits. Try finding THAT on the National Mall in on place! Inevitably your viewfinder will be drawn to the dramatic architecture inside and out, but don’t forget to notice the details. After all, it did take 80 years to construct!
From the outside, you can capture the entire cathedral from across the street, in the doorway of the apartment building across Wisconsin Ave. Do it with your camera held vertically, perfectly straight, so that the cathedral does not lean back. You can also get a great shot from the Bishops Garden, framing the cathedral in the arch of the garden gazebo.
As you head inside, use your camera to capture the magnificent stained glass windows and the light they project onto the limestone walls and columns. Tripods are allowed during non-service hours.
All photos courtesy of Washington Photo Safari. All rights reserved