It smelled like spring. It looked like spring. It felt like spring. Not only was this past Saturday considered peak bloom for Washington’s cherry blossoms, it was a balmy spring day. But walking around the Tidal Basin on Saturday, pedestrians had to weave past more than just the fluffy pink flowers that overcame the freezing temperatures of a late-season winter storm just days earlier. Selfie-ing teens, face-timing families and professional photographers were everywhere.
Ducking under branches and crouching under Instagramers may seem like a modern dilemma, but the tradition of photographing the blossoms is as old as the trees themselves. While photography has been around since the early 1800s, the Brownie, the first mass-market camera, was introduced in 1901 — 11 years before Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave the city of Washington 3,000 cherry trees. While the trees were intended to symbolize the long-lasting friendship between the United States and Japan, they have also served as fodder for shutterbugs near and far.
Washington held its first Cherry Blossom Festival in 1934, but even before then, the annual bloom attracted people and photographers. From newlyweds clad in evening attire to girls in flowery dresses and puppies with flowers on their collars, these Library of Congress photos show that while the photography technology has changed, much has stayed the same. The perennial click-click-click of camera shutters — even if just an electronically produced sound — is as much a tradition as the canopy of blossoms itself.
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