When I finally became an American citizen, at around the time I took my oath, I had this notion, and therefore decided, it’s just right that I should go and see Washington, DC.
To me, it would be like a pilgrimage of sorts.
The past 5 or 6 years since I’ve been granted permanent residency status in the United States (that all-essential step, a stay-in trial period before applying and becoming a full-fledged American citizen), I’ve traversed the East corridor of the contiguous continental America countless times, going up and down through most of the original founding states, but only always seeing Washington, DC, from out of the car window or out of the window of Amtrak train's Palmetto service line. (At this point, I’ve already crisscrossed and visited some other states, many from the West Coast, but at the back of my mind, I should really go and see Washington, DC.)
The fact that there are so many world-class museums in Washington, DC, all the more made me resolve to visit. (I love going to museums, and my favorites, when I was living in New York City area for more than 5 years straight, are the MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, the New York Museum, and of course, the Metropolitan. I also love visiting the many art galleries all over Manhattan, in the different boroughs, and from the nearby New Jersey.)
Well, it took quite a while before it happened, before I finally got to go and see Washington, DC.
I’ve been to Washington, DC, twice now. But of those two times, none was of the perfect-weather variety, the bright kind that you’d see on many Googled pictures of Washington, DC. My visits to Washington, DC, on both occasions, were on days with the kind of weather that can be described as nothing but foul.
The first time was when there was an almost week-long conference that my folks had to go to in the area, and they needed a driver for a 14-hr land trip to transport them there from Georgia, instead of taking a plane.
Of course, while they were busy, holed up in the hotel and the conference center, I was out and about, accompanied by an adventurous and free-spirited Aunt who lives in nearby Virginia with her husband and daughter, and who graciously gave me my first, memorable, grand tour of all the essential monumental memorials of Washington, DC, by car. On a very wet day. It was really raining so hard that day, but undeterred, we kept going around to see as much of the sights as possible.
At around that time, my younger brother moved to Maryland, a stone’s throw away from Washington, DC, and the second time I went there was when I needed to drive my sister who was visiting from the Philippines, together with my mother. My sister knew some people who are based in the Washington, DC area, who were connected by work, and so it became part of the itinerary. The weather wasn’t as bad as the first time, but still, it was generally cloudy and gloomy for most of the day, with heavy clouds hanging low in the sky, threatening to drench us all at a moment’s notice.
On both visits, I was very interested in going inside the museums to view the exhibits (as a strategic respite from the pouring rain the first time around, and as an insurance policy the second time), as much as walk around the city and marvel at the historical landmarks. You can imagine how rushed I felt, trying to take in everything all at once. In my estimate, it probably will take me at least a week to really see, (and take pictures) of everything that needs to be seen (and photographed) at a relaxed, easy pace.
In any case, since I felt I haven’t seen really much at all, that right there, is a good excuse as any, to go back, and soon.
Also, on both visits, I made a conscious decision to not bring any of my big, bulky DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses and tricked with accessories, all in one very heavy backpack. I resolved to just really enjoy the experience of going around, taking long walks, and to take in as much of it as I can. Instead, I decided to arm myself with my iPhone’s camera and a couple of pocketable cameras, my Leica, which I can quickly and easily whip out any time, even without thinking.
As it happened, I ended up not taking as many pictures as I could or as I probably should, but I had a really grand, memorable time. Whatever pictures I managed to take, it focused mostly on only certain areas and spots. Again, right there, is a perfect excuse to go back, and yes, soon.
As I was looking at all the photos in Apple’s Aperture on my Mac that I managed to take during my two separate trips to Washington, DC, I felt that there are a few images I might be able to share. And so, I carefully went through each and every shot, and after a time, was somehow managed to come up with a gallery that contained 48 black-and-white images interesting enough to share.
Because of the weather, the pictures I shot of Washington, DC, turned out to be a very atmospheric and moddy, the kind you most likely haven’t seen online. It turned out that I liked my moody shots of Washington, DC, not only for their obvious difference to most tourist-type images, but for their deeply evocative quality. I didn’t plan on picturing Washington, DC, this way at all, but I guess, with the kind of weather I had, it was up to me to make the most and bring out the best in the pictures I've shot.
If you ask me, next time I get the chance to go to Washington, DC, I’m really, really now hoping that the weather will cooperate, and remain to be just as foul as the first two times I've been there.
Note: To see the complete 48 black-and-white photo set of Washington, DC, click here.