The White House, May 2007. My first trip to Washington D.C. came as part of a fantastic three-week tour that took in New York City, Nashville, Lynchburg County and Memphis. After the amazing assault on the senses that was The Big Apple, D.C. felt like a sleepy little backwater town in comparison. With its wide spotless streets, melting pot architecture, world-class museums and sleepy, unpopulated cafes, I found myself instantly wishing I’d allowed for another day or two. Staying with a friend in an apartment on 16th Street (location! location! location!), it was barely a ten-minute meander down to The White House. On arrival I was met by a modest gaggle of loitering tourists, a crazy man wandering around with a box on his head that read Me For President! and a pacing sniper on the roof looking like he was ready for action. In the wave of excitement that hit me, I foolishly approached a couple of meathead cops (crew cuts, square jaws, dead behind the eyes) to enquire if Mr. Bush was currently in residence. “Why are you asking this sir?” “Don’tcha watch the news sir?” “What is your current address in this city sir?” They were still at it when I lost interest and walked off.
Concepcion Picciotto, May 2007. Someone the cops didn’t seem worried about was the ever-present Conception Picciotto, one of America’s most famous protestors. Known to locals as Connie or Conchita, I was staggered to learn she’d been camped outside The White House for over twenty-six years! The primary guardian of this colorful anti-nuclear vigil, Connie greeted me warmly that morning in her crackly English, kitted out in her signature dress, helmet and headscarf. Although clearly something of a local hero, Connie’s mental issues, believed to have stemmed from the breakdown of her marriage and estrangement from her daughter, are well documented. Having maintained her vigil for over 35 years, contributing to a ballot initiative in nuclear disarmament and appearing in the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, Concepcion Picciotto died in January 2016 aged 80.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, May 2007. A trip to DC wouldn’t be complete without stopping by The Lincoln Memorial and its adjacent stretch of water, made world famous by Martin Luther King’s ‘‘I have a Dream’’ speech, not to mention classic movies such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Forrest Gump and Independence Day. As part of The National Mall, a park complex connecting the memorial to the United States Capitol, the area draws some twenty-four million visitors a year! Timing my visit for early evening, I was lucky enough to experience the place at a mercifully peaceful moment.
The Capitol, May 2007. Anyone heading to DC should make sure they get a seat on the brilliant Monuments by Moonlight trolley tour, a two and a half hour drive around the city’s major monuments, statues and buildings. Taking in, among others, memorials to Iwo Jima, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Korean and Vietnam wars, you’ll be treated to excellent commentary from your knowledgeable guide, while there’s plenty of time to jump off and explore at each point. This shot, taken early on in the fading light, is of The United States Capitol; a gorgeous neoclassical construction that makes me want to watch The West Wing all over again. Free interior tours can also be arranged, though insane queuing times means it pays to book ahead!
Arlington Cemetery, May 2009. Two years on from my DC experience and I was back in town for a few nights with a couple of friends. Retracing my old steps, the one missing piece of my DC jigsaw was a visit to Arlington Cemetery; something I inexplicably snubbed the first time around. As strange as this might sound, I’ve always had a thing for cemeteries! From the inescapable sense of history and beauty of the headstones and religious images, to their landscaped gardens and the induced thoughtfulness of it all. Needless to say, Arlington stands among the most impressive cemeteries I’ve seen. 624 acres, four hundred thousand graves, memorials to John and Bobby Kennedy, shades of the Second World War and Vietnam, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the place. This shot is a favorite of mine in that The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument and the J. Edgar Hoover Building are all visible in the background.