Washington D.C.’s quadrants: A photo essay



Washington from four angles: A photo essay


Washington from four angles: A photo essay

Published on October 19, 2017

This is what happens when a city gets hit by a deluge of dollars.

A dilapidated storefront in the District gets washed away; left in its place is a fancy new restaurant. Economic lightning strikes a vacant lot; when the dust clears, the land is covered in natural woods and polished stones, marked by a sign announcing the opening of a swanky outdoor cafe.

It is the reverse of an economic drought, but the impact is no less dramatic. For decades, residents in the District got to see what economic droughts can do to an urban landscape. Now we are seeing what happens when a city gets flooded with cash.

These photographs, taken by Washington Post staff, show people in different quadrants of the city going about life as usual. For the most part, they look as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But there is absolutely nothing ordinary about anything that is happening around them. The world is shifting under their feet. — Courtland Milloy

Northwest: After sunset, the city’s lighter side shines

Photographs and text by Sarah L. Voisin

Northwest Washington is the city’s largest quadrant, making up about 42 percent of the land and filled with a striking diversity of people. Members of the city’s high society live in lavish Georgetown mansions. Large immigrant families crowd into studio apartments in Brightwood. And African Americans have called Petworth home for generations. I wanted to show all this diversity, and so the area’s nightlife was where I turned. Rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, black, white — people in Northwest venture out in the evenings. I wanted my photos to capture this lighter side of the city, when people are tuning out the daily discouraging news headlines and enjoying themselves — and each other.

Many times I went looking for a specific demographic, but I was always pleasantly surprised to find such a wonderful blend of people. They spent the hours laughing, drinking, kissing. We often think of life in Washington as pretentious or pompous, but what I witnessed each evening gave me hope not only for my city, but also for the wider country.

From top: The Living Room, near McPherson Square: People exit on the red carpeted stairs. The Liaison Capitol Hill hotel: A performer at the annual Circus of the Night on the rooftop. The Lucky Bar, near Dupont Circle: Pierre Bennett of Reston, Va., spins Joanna Mendez, 26, of Jacksonville, Fla. Columbia Elks Lodge, LeDroit Park: Ralph White, 50, of Washington on the dance floor. Toro Toro, near Franklin Square: From left, Gabriela Melara, 22, Jessica Mendez, 27, and Yessy Umanzor, 25, at the upscale Latin dance club.
From top: Town Danceboutique, near U Street: After performing, a dancer collects her tips. The Raven, Mount Pleasant: Bheeshm Chaudhary, 33, of Washington rolls dice during a game of Yahtzee with Zannah Herridge-Meyer, 28. Georgetown: From left, Judge Paul L. Friedman, wife Elizabeth Friedman and A.R. Esfandiary sip cocktails at a welcome-back-to-Washington soiree in the home of Calvin and Jane Cafritz. U Street: Sean Bagley, 25, and Nai Dior, 22, both of Washington, early in the morning. Apple Lounge, U Street: Yan Carter, 27, of Washington and Kate Cocoa Latte, 26, of Burtonsville, Md., smoke a hookah.


Betty Entzminger; Julie Kent; Andre Lane Jr.; Tamako Miyazaki; Daril Kristofer; Elaine Kudo; Christopher Moses; Briana Boykins

Northeast: One era gives way to another

Photographs and text by Michael Robinson Chavez

The city is disappearing fast, or at least being reinvented. Glass towers seem to be rising on every corner, and construction cranes jockey for position in an increasingly claustrophobic skyline. After nine years away from Washington, my return in 2016 felt far less nostalgic than I expected. So in documenting life in Northeast Washington, it was what I didn’t see that prompted me to work mostly with an iPhone to photograph the buildings, places and people that may not still be here in a few years. The iPhone allowed me to capture the transition I was seeing unfold; I used an app that combined black-and-white and a muted palette, as though one era was giving way to another.

I found myself roaming around the warehouse district that surrounds Union Market. Halal meat markets, prayer rug vendors and that fantastic Mexican produce market are all anticipating having to join their former neighbors in the suburbs. The costs of leases are skyrocketing, and these businesses are being priced out. Their regulars — immigrants from Africa, Latin America and Asia — will have to shop elsewhere. And when that happens, the area’s transformation will be complete.

To me, as a photographer, the city offers fewer surprises these days. Street photography is at its best when the unexpected — and the extraordinary — occurs around any random corner. As neighborhoods begin to mimic one another, I have to look much harder to find those moments.

From top: Rosedale Community Center: Phyllis Martin, 7, left, and Dakota Jackson, 5, splash in the pool. Near Union Market: A crane rises above an old building. Marvin Gaye Park, Deanwood: Karim Clayton, 10, plays with a hula hoop. H Street corridor: An advertisement promotes the condos being built behind it. H Street corridor: A boarded-up storefront church.
Brookland: A woman passes over a bridge on Monroe Street. H Street corridor: Jumbo Liquor. NoMa: The Ibiza nightclub, which has now closed. Deanwood: Photographs line a building at Division and Nannie Helen Burroughs avenues. Near Union Market: The corner of Morse and Fourth streets. Brookland: A window display in a shop called Petals Ribbons and Beyond.


Eyasu Delesa; Vada Miller; Oscar Sanchez; Monica Ajak; Andrey Manannikov; Casimir DeBose; Ilona Molyavchyk; Derrick Cox.

Southwest: On the cusp of another sea change

Photographs and text by Bill O’Leary

As a native Washingtonian, and a photojournalist for more than 30 years, my paths have taken me to every conceivable point in this city. Of the four D.C. quadrants, I’ve always thought of Southwest as the quietest. When I was young, the government evicted almost everyone in it, taking property by eminent domain, and in the name of urban renewal began terraforming the region, building an enormous freeway through it and erecting federal office buildings, many in the brutalist style popular in that era. By the time I was old enough to roam the city streets — mostly residential, federal or industrial areas — Southwest held little interest. The Maine Avenue Fish Market, with its floating seafood shops, or an occasional performance at Arena Stage were about all I needed to know about the area, unless I had to renew my automobile inspection.

But 2017 finds Southwest on the cusp of another sea change. The Wharf, a multibillion-dollar development, is at the forefront of renewal throughout the area. A Major League Soccer stadium is being built, and more apartments and condominiums are rising, promising an influx of residents and nightlife. Currently Southwest is something of a quagmire of closed roads, detours and parking restrictions, so I went looking for sights and scenes that would exemplify the quadrant before it reawakens.

The fish market is surrounded by Wharf construction, but it is one of the few institutions that have spanned the ages of Southwest. At Arena, I watched people scour the racks of the annual costume sale. And the SW Arts Club, housed in Friendship Baptist Church, is a colorful and telling combination of fresh infusions of life and light amid crumbling antiquity.

From top: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: A musician performs on the plaza for Summer Evenings @ Hirshhorn. Arena Stage: Elise Sipos, an aerialist with the Trapeze School of New York, dangles in the window as people line up for an annual costume sale. Southwest Freeway: Construction workers cross over rush-hour traffic. St. Dominic Church: The spire is reflected in the windows of a federal office building. East Potomac Park: A lone fisherman waits for a bite.
SW Arts Club: Old stained glass and new painted murals. Randall School: Colorfully painted plywood covers the windows at the former school. Washington Channel: People shop for seafood near the old wharf. Seventh Street near Virginia Avenue: A commuter. Buzzard Point: The skeleton of the new soccer stadium rises.


Matthew McCombs; George McPherson; Jessy Sheha; Aiden Lui; Javier Morera; Nakornsri Sintaisong; Ron Cooke; Helena Cerny

Southeast: Capturing what’s left of ‘Chocolate City’

Photographs and text by Jahi Chikwendiu

Since I moved to D.C. in 2001, watching the city’s changes has been like watching the subtle shifts of my own face. I can’t imagine my chin without heavy sprinkles of gray hair or my eyes without wrinkles when I smile. Likewise, it’s difficult to imagine the South Capitol Street Corridor before Nationals Park was built or before Yards Park in Navy Yard. As time passes, there are fewer and fewer clues about the land and personal character those neighborhoods had when I arrived.

This has been the era when D.C. lost its “Chocolate City” status, as the population of African Americans has failed to make gains while the city’s overall population has grown. The nation’s capital is following the nationwide trend of spatial reclamation, where European Americans are reclaiming city centers after migrating en masse to deep suburbs more than half a century ago. The Southeast quadrant of the city — broken in two by the Anacostia River — offers prime examples of both ends of the city’s “development” spectrum.

As more homeowners and investors ride the wave of development east of the Anacostia River, there is concern that many residents, who have been historically low- and moderate-income African Americans, will be driven out by gentrification. So my aim was to show glimpses of the state of the development of Southeast, focusing less on changes to the building-scape and more on what we stand to lose: brown faces in certain places. I wanted to capture the people who gave Chocolate City its name while they were still here for me to see.

From top: Outside Nationals Park: Kevin Garnes, 65, collects spare change from people headed to a game. We Act Radio, Anacostia: Co-owner Kymone Freeman, left, during a community meeting at the station. Congress Heights: Mike Larry waits for a bus with son Jayceon, center, and family friend Jeremy. Yards Park: Terrionda Whittington, left, and Jawanna Hardy settle into their boat ride as Kenny Green steers his pontoon away from the dock. Anacostia: Rashad Johnson, left, and Jose Long harvest kale at Union Temple Baptist Church‘s Ujima Urban Farm.
Anacostia: Reflection of James Hardy. Barry Farm housing complex: Men play chess in a courtyard. Wrenn‘s barber shop, Barracks Row: Charles A. Smith, 81, mops as Tracy Williams, 84 (“85 in November”), sits after closing. Anacostia: A woman walks a dog at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road. Anacostia Arts Center: Jeannele Lofton, left, and Amber Posey-Joyner lead a discussion on healthy relationships organized by Diversity Theatre Company.


Rosa Rivera; Evangeline Paredes; Richard Ager; Franck Tchokeu; Erin Thibeau; Sandee Bonita; Roger W. Lee; Natali Ramirez.