Washington, District of Contrasts (A photo essay)

My wife and I took a four day trip to Washington where I was struck by how it was truly a city of stark contrasts. Not that there are more homeless people than other cities its size, but seeing them encamped on benches in a little grove of trees near the Washington Monument or in front of Union Station seemed to me to shout out "for shame".
(Featured: M4 carbine totting Capitol Police Officer R. Doyo (or Doto) giving me the finger and a photo of one famous person)

I wasn’t particularly surprised to see the heavy security presence around government buildings.  I have to say it was disconcerting  to see U.S. Capitol Police with assault rifles and scopes. Even knowing what happened at the Holocaust Museum and mindful that in these violent times it is necessary, it was also unsettling to see museum security guards actually carrying sidearms.
Free speech in action: here and there we saw a few people protesting, including a group of about 40 people marching for a public option health care program in front of one of the House office buildings. 
I did like seeing all the families taking their children to experience American history and democracy instead of the antiseptic Disney World. I wonder how they explained the street people to their children.
(It was 90 degrees and humid and you’ll note that many of the homeless people were bundled up for cooler weather.)
Click images to enlarge and for high resolution photos to see details.


Above: The Obama’s personal chef Sam Kass, who cooked for the family in Chicago, is in the dark suit. I figured they had to be VIPs to be on the South Lawn of the White House. The executive White House chef is a holdover from the the Bush administration.
Below: White House photo of Michelle Obama and Sam Kass, the later the most famous person I photographed on the trip.

Above: Picking cherry tomatoes in White House vegetable garden. It would be interesting to find out who the man in the tan suit is.

Union Station


Below: National Museum of American History, "In the slave cabin"

National Mall

Above: I have little doubt that this smiling  M4 carbine totting officer giving me the finger. Click to enlarge and see what you think. I was about 100 feet away but he’s trained to be observant. I think he was sending me a non-too subtle message probably aware I wouldn’t notice until I got home and reviewed the photo. His name, R. Doyo or Doto, is visible on this and another photo.

I don’t begrudge him having a little fun at my expense. Standing in the heat with little else to do but watch for something that he hopes will never happen has to be draining.

American Justice: Cleaning windows in the United States Supreme Court.
Would it be that this was all that was necessary for the learned justices to have clear vision.


There are several additional photos here.


  1. Hal Brown

     For those who are reading this for the first time, and regular readers who follow new comments, I just posted another photo essay about my perspective of our nation’s capital on my personal blog here.

    I even included a few pictures of me.

  2. Carl Nemo

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us through your photo’s… : )

    Were you using a digital point and shoot type of camera or amore advanced DSLR?

    I understand high concentrations of lead were found in the Obama’s White House garden. Evidently sludge from human waste treatment was used on the grounds during the Clinton era. I find it somewhat hard to believe. There is a product known as Milorganite that is sterilized sludge from treatment plants. The heavy metals have been mostly removed and kept to a minimum. It’s generally used to fertilize lawns for a quick green up of the turf. It’s advised not to use it on crops for human consumption though.

    Nice shots overall and your focus on the ugly along with the good made it interesting.

    The need to intensely police our nation’s capitol with in your face, assault weapon armed personnel is somewhat disconcerting. Does it make a a statement about the quality of our citizens in these times, the government itself; ie., an emerging “police state” or both?

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. griff

    A self-perpetuating reality I would think. The worse our government gets, the more people will oppose it, and the more protection they’ll need.

    Personally I think they’ve gone over the top. More and more the People are being conditioned to accept what just a few short years ago would be considered unacceptable and wholly un-American.

    Not only are the police becoming more and more militarized, but the military itself is being called upon to do civilian policing.

  4. Hal Brown

     For photography buffs, I tried out my new Nikon D-90 (replaced my excellent D-70) with a Nikkor 18-200 mm VR lens, which is (as Ken Rockwell says) is the only lens you need. That’s what made the close-ups possible without having to carry around a long telephoto. I kept the lens short until just before taking long shot pictures – handy for candid pictures from far away. 

    For those interested in  law enforcement: I asked one of the Capitol Police about why a few officers were wearing the far more sensible shorts (again it was a humid 90 degrees so what with bullet-proof vest it had to be uncomfortable) while most were dressed in the dark blue uniforms. I got a vague answer I couldn’t make sense of.

    No doubt the SWAT outfits make them look more intimidating to the average visitor, though I doubt the kid whose already cuffed and, below, being searched by the bicycle Metro cop in shorts and white shirt cares about such things.

    Click to enlarge

    Not to diminish the importance of the Capitol Police Department and the uniformed Secret Service as well the other uniformed officers in and around government building, but they are basically guards. Of course they are well trained and they put their lives at risk, but unless they’re on patrol duty I assume the jobs are boring even though, according to another officer I asked, they change posts every two hours.  The Metro Police shown above are essentially city police and are the ones doing the variety of tasks the big city cops everywhere do, although as this press release describes, Capitol Police also are involved in traditional city policing.

    I read about the garden and the lead and would assume whatever actually is eaten is safe. By next year I expect the soil will be tested and replaced if necessary and the garden fertilizers with something appropriate.


  5. griff

    Nice pics Hal. I’ve been using a D-50 myself with 18-55 and 70-300 Nikkor lenses for three years now.

    I’ll have to admit, my favorite would have to be the one with Obama and the Hitler ‘stache.

  6. Hal Brown

     Griff, thanks. Those are the lenses I had for the D-70. It was a pain having to change them all the time. The D-50 is an excellent camera and probably the most value for the money of all the SLRs. The 70-300 mm didn’t have VR (vibration reduction) which makes a big difference on long shots in low light.

  7. griff

    Yep, found that out the hard way. The learning curve for SLR’s is a steep and endless one, but worth the effort.

  8. Hal Brown

    Just an extra. Unfortunately this came out blurred, but shows a Capitol Police officer in shorts casually holding an M4 carbine while he seems to be texting.

    Is he giving someone the finger? A friend just emailed that perhaps he was giving ME the finger.

  9. woody188

    Hal, a lot of poor and transient wear warmer clothes for a couple of reasons. The nights are cold, the stone and concrete are cold, and a lot of them have visible sores and wounds that if not covered would get them harassed like lepers.

  10. bryan mcclellan

    I think he’s saying his manicurist is on 1st street Hal.

    He obviously is in training to be demoted from the DMV?

    Thanks for the reel. Hal, you must be tough, with a light camera as you said, as hot as it was.

    Number 19, is that cheeny, and smirk?

    Plus it’s harder when it’s the clothes on your back that become the identity.