Four days of shooting created nearly 1800 images from the inauguration. Those have been narrowed to 246. Of those 246 twenty will be chosen for a joint exhibition with several of my students who also attended the inauguration.
Portraits of the Inauguration, so far, will be exhibited in four locations, the Mt. Lebanon Library, the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, the Braddock Library and the University Center Gallery at Point Park University.
I arrived to Bristow, Va. Friday night. After a few unrelated issues Saturday morning, I made it into DC by noon. Walking around the National Mall while the finishing touches were being applied gave me the opportunity to get the lay of the land. I was able to mingle with and photograph people while at the same time evaluate all sorts of things like my attire, would I be arm enough, do I have an appropriate amount of gear and am I carrying it in such a way to minimize security slowdowns around town.
Sunday was the day of the inauguration kick-off concert at the Lincoln Memorial. This event was packed. Too many people tried to get to the memorial while organizers closed the gates and stopped admitting people to the area. The crowd grew larger and larger between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. This event gave a visual prelude to what would happen Tuesday.
On Monday I rode my bike part way from Alexandria to the District to get a sense of the ride and also to figure out how to get through Alexandria. It wasn’t complicated, but it sure did save time on Tuesday as there were no questions about the route. I arrived in town about noon and met up with students and two other photographers. We wanted more inspiration. We went to see the Robert Frank exhibition, The Americans, at the National Gallery. Seeing his work prior to the big event was beneficial. It helped get the creative juice flowing faster Tuesday.
Monday was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day of service in the District. Many groups and organizations volunteered themselves to serve others. One particular group held an event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library and provided a hot meal and clothing to the needy. This event provided a scene of visual richness. opportunities for good photographs were present everywhere you looked.
By Tuesday I had changed locations to the Huntington Ave. section of Alexandria, just blocks away from the Metro and the Mt. Vernon Bike Trail. I left on my bike at 7am and reached the Inaugural Bike Valet located at the Jefferson Memorial just after 8am. The ride was easy and visually striking. The light was perfect. After arriving at the Jefferson I continued my walk to the mall where I stayed between 15th Street and the Lincoln Memorial. I challenged myself not to get stuck in a crowd were I could not move freely from one place to the next. Some of my students reported that they got stuck in the middle of the Mall for several hours.
It was my mission to create a portrait style document of the event. I initially intended to photography the protesters and the fringe elements at the edges of the crowds. However, those scenes never really materialized to the level I expected, so I changed course a bit, my subjects became interesting faces and statements provided by the attendants.
The scale of the event was a challenge to the students, part of their mission was to provide on the spot reportage for the Point Park News Service and its partner the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Students were able to provide small items of coverage for the event. However, a greater lesson was learned by them. Preparation, preparation, preparation. Most of the students arrived late to the show, Monday evening or early Tuesday morning. This did not provide adequate time for them to capture more than one aspect of the event. It also limited their ability to access the internet to file stories and photos. Surprisingly, the level of connectivity of my current students is less than what is generally assumed about the generation. Most of them cannot access the internet from their cell phones and most lack the exeprience through trial and error to create effective work arounds to technical problems. An event like this will surely prime the pump and prepare them for the next big deal. They will consider more angles and will ask more questions about how to get things done and they will be successful.