Every day, an estimated 60 million photos are uploaded to Instagram. The photo-sharing app’s vast, virtual album is filled with blurry snapshots of bowls of ramen and outfits of the day, furry pets doing precocious things and mason-jar weddings. (Not to mention the occasional belfie, calculated to make us all feel just a little bit worse about ourselves.)
Sometimes, however, a stunner finds its way into your feed: an abstract view from inside the National Gallery of Art, a sunny day at the National Arboretum.
The District is full of Instagrammers who, shunning all of the usual Insta-claptrap, capture the city’s everyday scenes and architecture in crisp, unexpected ways. To see their work is to be sheepishly reminded that Washington is one of the world’s most photogenic cities and that, perhaps, you and your #bae ought to spend a little more time experiencing the city around you and less time chronicling your juice cleanse.
“There are so many good photographs out there that have been lost, that are in so many shoeboxes, rotting away,” says Adam Harden, who shares his shots under the handle @movefwd. For him, Instagram is a forum both to share and to be inspired by a world of street photography. The app, he says, provides “a treasure trove of images. It’s a library.”
This week, we delve into that trove in search of inspiration. We’re featuring some of the places Washington’s avid Instagrammers, and our staff, love to photograph. Sure, they use filters and editing apps such as VSCO Cam to enhance a shot. But these photos prove that whether you’re a Leica-toting purist or just have your iPhone handy, framing and unexpected perspectives are great equalizers.
Photographed by Adam Harden, Aug. 12, 2013
Follow him @movefwd
Our dreams of a World Series may have just been dashed, but when the Washington Nationals are winning, images of the bright, apple-green outfield, splashed with red from the jerseys and caps, fill Instagram. The baseball stadium that opened in 2008 is an iconic part of the city’s landscape. (It even has a cameo in the opening credits for “House of Cards.”) Adam Harden’s photo of Nationals Park forces the viewer to look not at the players, but at the highly geometrical layout of the seats and the outfield, which converge in the photo at the exact point where fans have congregated. Bad seats? Not at all: They’re splashed with a light that is practically heavenly. It’s a view that Harden, a bartender at American Ice Company, returns to again and again. “In a ballpark, there’s always good light,” he says. “They’re built on light. They build their sightlines on where the sun sets and rises. You’ll always find weird light scenarios.”
Ronald Reagan Building
Photographed by Reema Desai, Sept. 30, 2014
Follow her @reema_desai
The Ronald Reagan Building is an imposing sight along Pennsylvania Avenue NW, but to a wandering tourist or Washington resident, what else beyond its sheer size catches the eye? Private- and public-sector employees call it home during the week, including Reema Desai’s sister. Desai, a freelance photographer and human resources administrator, took advantage of the muted light from overcast skies while waiting for her sister to wrap up a day of work. Her photo transforms the symmetrical and drab architecture often associated with office buildings into something magical and unexpected. “I don’t think it really looks like it belongs in D.C.,” Desai says. “I studied abroad in London, and that one particular spot has always reminded me of London.”
The Kennedy Center
Photographed by Justin Best, July 20, 2014
Follow him @justin11511
A snap of Robert Berks’s lumpy, 3,000-pound bronze bust of President John F. Kennedy is one of the most recognizable ways to gloat, wordlessly, “I have tickets to ‘The Lion King’ and you don’t.” But Justin Best, a technology salesman from the Palisades, documented his first Kennedy Center visit in more abstract fashion. Best slipped into the orchestra section during intermission, craned his neck up and snapped, capturing the Opera House’s grand, golden snowflake of a chandelier. His crop, which zooms in on the center of the fixture, makes it difficult to place at first. “I typically only take two or three photos of something, typically all from the same angle,” Best says. Good thing: An usher quickly informed him that no photos are allowed in the theater. “I didn’t realize till after I’d taken it that you weren’t supposed to take pictures in there,” he says. “But because I took it so quickly, I don’t think he realized I’d actually taken the picture.”
Photographed by Dan Zak, March 18, 2014
Follow him @mrdanzak
Many of the city’s statues have a certain, well, statuesqueness that begs to photographed. But few of us stop to do it, particularly when we pass landmarks so often that they feel as mundane as the neighborhood Safeway. Post writer Dan Zak is the type who stops: His photo of Logan Circle affirms the idea that sometimes, it’s not the place that makes the photo, but the time of day, the perfectly glum bit of weather or the people who populate the frame. The sky is the moody blue of an evening rapidly fading into night; a lone puddle reflects the barren trees. “Living in Shaw and working near McPherson Square, my life radiates along Logan’s spokes,” Zak says of the shot. “I walk through and around it nearly every day, and yet I always see a new angle, a new color, a new composition.”
Photographed by Matt Mansfield, Sept. 5, 2014
Follow him @mattmansfield
The cavernous, modern atrium between the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery is dotted with trees and little pools, and lies under an undulating glass roof set off with a steel lattice. Light pours through in a remarkable grid pattern that has inspired hundreds of camera-phone-toting photographers, including Matt Mansfield, a visiting journalism professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School. “There’s always this saying in photography, ‘Look up.’ I thought, let’s look down,” Mansfield says of this shot. “If I walk upstairs, I’ll be able to see something different.” What he caught was a security guard briskly making his way across the courtyard, in perfect step with the grid. “It’s a beautiful architectural space, but people are just going about their business. I keep going back to that place,” Mansfield says, “because it’s just such a fascinating place to photograph.”
Photographed by Margaret Ely, Oct. 4, 2014
Follow her @margaretcely
A few motifs in Washington Instagram feeds aren’t particularly awe-inspiring or unusual, but are instead highly coded messages to your friends, family and followers. A photo of the heart etched into your latte foam means you’re having a rare leisurely morning — and everyone should be jealous. Snapshots of the naughty bathroom decor at the Logan Circle bar 2 Birds 1 Stone or the tiny bit of toilet humor at Barmini means that you’ve finally found your way into one of the city’s best, hidden little cocktail bars, and that you’re hip to their inside jokes. Then there’s the ”awesome” sign. Hung in the main dining room at Rose’s Luxury, where dinner plans come with a built-in wait of at least an hour (or two), it’s one of the Capitol Hill restaurant’s most Instagrammed features. A few meanings here: You scored a seat. Dinner was, well, awesome. And, oh, yes, everyone should be jealous.
National Gallery of Art
Photographed by Phil Martin, June 27, 2014
Follow him @phil.martin
When the National Gallery of Art debuted Leo Villareal’s “Multiverse” in November 2008, former Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik dismissed it as “the city’s largest, finest display of Christmas lights.” Gopnik may not have cared for it, but the installation — which became part of the permanent collection in 2009 — has become a favorite of camera-toting museumgoers. More than 40,000 bright-white LED lights turn a drab walkway between the East and West buildings into art itself. No one angle can really do it justice, but District-based communication specialist Phil Martin perfectly captures the cosmic, mesmerizing view with a #tbt shot. “The photo is all about light,” Martin says. “It kind of takes you away. You can stand there for 45 minutes to take a good photo.”
12th Place NW
Photographed by Lavanya Ramanathan, Oct. 5, 2014
Follow her @lavanyarama
Washington used to have its share of wildly colored houses. The brick would be splashed with such colors as pink, purple and mustard yellow, and the trim was selected not to be complementary but for the visual dissonance it would inspire. These days, you can spot such a house here and there in the District, but those that haven’t been replaced with massive condos mostly have gotten a few coats of gray or beige paint and have learned to blend in. Then there’s 12th Place NW, a one-way nook of a neighborhood which, between W Street and Florida Avenue, somehow packs in brightly hued homes like crayons in a box: teal, powder blue, fire-engine red, plum and forest green on one block that’s a dream to photograph, even on a rainy day. The hard part? Finding a way to capture them all in one shot.
Photographed by Johnny White, Oct. 5, 2014
Follow him @49thstate
The National Arboretum is a green haven on the outskirts of the District’s bustle. Although it’s rich in everything from azaleas to boxwoods, the National Capitol Columns (first used on the East portico of the Capitol building in 1828) are a standout historical landmark begging to be photographed. Johnny White, a Virginia-based freelance photographer, shot a richly vibrant picture of the columns Oct. 5 during a District gathering for Instagram’s 10th Worldwide InstaMeet. White says he wanted to compose a shot that would represent the day. The symmetrical reflection of the columns, along with puffy white clouds across a clear and stunning blue sky, make this shot noteworthy. “I’m pretty fond of symmetry, so I am always looking for that perfect shot,” White says.
Washington Post photographers travel near and far on assignment, and their images offer glimpses into local life — Bao Bao at the National Zoo or a truck covered in petals on a rainy spring day — and of the world at large. For them, Instagram is another way to share what they see. Here’s a sampling of our photographers’ 2014 Instagrams from around the Washington area. For more, follow us on Instagram @washpostphoto.
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