In some ways, this summer seemed familiar. The sunflowers in bloom at McKee-Beshers were as beautiful as ever, and the bird hatchlings just as cute. The National Mall was as impressive as ever, if less crowded than we’ve come to expect. But in other ways, the summer of 2020 has been unfamiliar, both for good (our country’s increasing embrace of racial justice) and ill (our continuing struggles with the pandemic). Photographers from throughout the DMV have captured scenes both ordinary and unprecedented and more than 30 of them contributed to this post.
This summer of seclusion has defined the need to get outdoors, to savor the beauty of nature offered freely, while we are yet so separated and confined. But even in the search and beauty of it, the intensity in the daily events and the very divided lines of our society are imprinted upon our thoughts, despite a scene so beautiful as sea oats at sunrise. The division is dark and the mood is fiery. So we search on, for a path to peace and harmony where we can stand together. And if we can find the means, will we show our children the path to peace and harmony amongst us all? And will they then, perhaps, show the way.
These images were taken at Huntley Meadows.
(Mark’s Flickr page; Instagram: @setlistthief)
One of the unanticipated joys brought on by the pandemic is being more attuned to changes in my neighborhood. Walking the dogs, pre-pandemic, was a chore to be hurriedly completed before rushing off to my commute, or a bleary obligation at the end of the day, often completed in the dark. Dog-walking now is a pleasurable morning, afternoon, and evening break when I savor the company of Roscoe and Quintana, wave to neighbors, and notice the area’s new growth. Recently, these signs began sprouting along my dog walking route, their message a reminder that building, and nourishing, community is the only way we’ll get through difficult times.
The second image is right before the March on Washington 2020 event.
Here are two shots, one from May and one from August, of the tourist-light Mall.
This image was taken at the height of tensions in the first waive of protests in D.C. In all the tension, a bright spot appeared, as it usually does in the form of breakerz doing their thing. These guys were having a blast and for a moment it felt like I was able to drop my shoulders a bit. This collapsing backwards move was ill and had the crowd pumped.
This photo was taken in the very same weekend after George Floyd was killed. Ten blocks from the epicenter of the unrest at the White House, a young lady takes a stroll through the garden at the Kennedy Center. An incredible contrast of two stories in one day.
I am submitting something a little bit ethereal. In the middle of a pandemic when you can’t go anywhere, the flowers in the backyard become super interesting, especially in the low light of sunset, especially when you move the camera, on purpose.
These were taken during the summer at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and in front of the Library of Congress.
Just when graduating in the middle of a pandemic was enough, they added to her resume graduating during protest for Black Life. Why is this important? This mother of two graduated with her bachelors degree so she can continue her career as a nurse, but now an operating room nurse where every life matters. As tensions grow regarding race and the death toll climbs during a pandemic, this woman chose to move forward with the two most dangerous jobs in America right now… Being Black and a Nurse!
These two images are a reflection of what I have seen happening during this year — frustration and despair.
(Twitter; Instagram: @pewefan)
Just minutes before the horrible photo op spectacle at St. Johns Church by our president, I was downtown on my bike getting a sense of what was going on. The perimeter around the White House was tighter. I had already seen, bizarrely, DEA agents directing traffic on K street. As I cycled by the graffiti-filled east wall of our Treasury Department, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the marchers in the front of the photo, dressed somberly in black and carrying some kind of stick, compared to the ice cream eaters in the back.
I cycled just a block onward to the former location of the American Bar Association (ABA) at 15th and H, which had already demarcating an ever expansive perimeter of the White House and being guarded by a line of police. I then saw tear gas exploding down by St. Johns. The curfew was just minutes away, so I hustled home. Only later did I find out how horrible those minutes had been for those unfortunate peaceful protesters in the path of our activated military personnel instructed by our attorney general to “clear a path.” I work for the ABA. Lawyers continue to be on the ever-shrinking perimeter protecting our democracy, equality and constitutional rights of assembly and free speech.
Both of these entries were taken in the month of June. To me, each of these photos speak towards a time of uncertainty in the District as the nation came to terms with police brutality and racial inequality. It also represents fear. Boarded up businesses and fenced-in statues to “protect” against those who were exercising their freedom of speech. June of 2020 was a turning point for all of us.
My tween surprised me by waking up at 5am to go see the sunflowers at McKee-Beshers with me. We were the first ones there to see the sunrise over the fields — a truly special moment.
We were accidentally given two tomato plants which have grown to the size of monsters in our small backyard. If that wasn’t scary enough, there is now a tomato hornwood caterpillar living on one of them. I’m enthralled/terrified by it.
This summer was like no other in the DMV (and everywhere for that matter). I was compelled to go see the Black Lives Matter Plaza. This image is meaningful to me because it captures so much about this moment in time. I took this just days after Trump stood in front of St. John’s Church holding the bible as a prop and the riots that broke out afterwards. The Black Lives Matter banner on the AFL-CIO building captures the size of this movement. The lone woman crossing the street wearing a mask because we are also in the middle of a pandemic captures the perseverance. The scale, the colors and the size and everything above just drew my eye to capture this moment.
The second picture is summer in a photo to me. In fact, my summer is not complete until I stand in the middle of a sunflower field at sunset in the July heat. I took this picture at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, MD just outside of DC in July. The flowers were huge, taller than me and the sky was perfect — big clouds, sunset colors and then there was this flower right in my view. I decided to capture just half of it and then there was this beautiful depth of (sunflower) field. In this moment, I was able to escape COVID, the weight of George Floyd’s murder, the marches and protest and just take in the beauty of summer here in the DMV.
From Lock Down to Standing UP for Black Lives, this summer has been an emotional roller coaster. I have been out in the streets documenting protests since May 29th and continue on today. These photos are meaningful to me because it’s about people standing up for what is right and just. Many are people who have never done anything like this before. This is what American Looks like. This is what DC Looks like.
I spent my free time this summer searching for wildlife along the areas waterways and wetlands.
In the weeks after George Floyd’s murder, I took some photos of the protests, but I also took these pictures of a few people who were younger and older than most of the protesters, in the quiet moments between the “action.” These two photos were both taken outside of Lafayette Park by the fence that became a two-dimensional protest in its own right. The little boy may not know why he’s there or what his t-shirt says, but unfortunately, it probably won’t be long before he is well aware of what this all means.
I was really struck by the older couple slowly walking the fence and reading all the signs. I thought about how much history they’ve witnessed, and wondered if they were thinking whether this time is going to be different.
(Morgan’s 500px site)
Two photos documenting the current world we live in. One photo shows a BLM protest the other shows diners in a restaurant.
(Angela’s Flickr page)
Old cemeteries can be good spots for socially distant walks. We spotted this photogenic tree at the Rock Creek Cemetery, and these photogenic deer at the Oak Hill Cemetery.
(Website; Instagram: @ryanmadisonnn)
A police officer gets in the face of a peaceful protester because he was leaning against one of many barriers put in place by police around St. John’s Church of Lafayette Square.
I photographed the marches in the District. I looked into the eyes of people of color and saw their pain, their desire for human decency and equality. It hurt my heart. Then one spring day I noticed a birds’ nest as I was walking over the Connecticut Avenue Bridge to Cleveland Park. Inside, a red-shouldered hawk was brooding her eggs. After this discovery, I visited every day with my camera to see when the eggs would hatch. It gave me hope. It was a distraction from the din of the daily news and fears for our future.
Then, on April 20, I saw the chicks peeking out from under their mother’s feathers. Life was unfolding — unbeknownst to the chaos around them and the plight of a world pandemic. That day, and the days that followed, I shared the news of the nest and hatchlings with folks passing by. Others would stop, wondering what everyone was looking at over the railing of a bridge. People of all ages, colors, and backgrounds came to visit this spectacle of nature. New friends were made. “Have you seen the hawks today? They’re growing up so fast!” But whirling buses and incessant foot traffic did little to deter the hawk family from their instinctual routine.
And as we watched it all unfold, we realized that nature is a panacea for what ails us, and brings us closer to the core of our existence.
If there is one thing that summer 2020 has made abundantly clear, it is that perspective is everything. We cannot hope to see real change without first acknowledging and honoring the perspectives of others and being open to seeing things in a new way. Changing your perspective in big and small ways can be beautiful.
So much tragedy and glimpses of hope in this complex summer, so one photo of each.
Here, a young girl clutches her doll and her mask at a rally while Vanessa Guillén’s mother is speaking with raw pain about the murder of her daughter.
The new Frederick Douglass bridge will play a major part in the revitalization of the Anacostia Waterway and offer transportation options for cars, bikes, and pedestrians. For centuries, workers have hoisted trees to celebrate when the tallest part of a structure is completed. Following that tradition, a construction worker stands by the tree to celebrate the completion of the arches.
This summer I have tried to attend and document as many protests as I can. Many of those photos I don’t share as there are so many concerns about identification of those photographed and maintaining privacy in these troubled days. The one below is from the March on Washington of U.S. Park Service rangers observing the crowd. To have balance I have been going to or biking to local parks to spend time in nature, farther from crowds.
Carol Jean Stalun
(Carol Jean’s website)
My husband and I visited the Black Lives Matter Plaza at a time when we were able to social distance. We were very moved by the atmosphere on the plaza. Many families were there together during this teachable moment in history. I took this photo of my husband as he prepared to take a photo of the scene.
I decided to go to the Supreme Court to get photos on the day that the justices announced the ruling to keep DACA in place. Various news teams were set up to report on the ruling.
[Editor’s note: Rimma is a reader of this blog from far beyond the DMV — Ukraine to be precise.]
This was a very talented street artist. Unfortunately, I don’t know his name but I enjoy watching him when he is working in our central park. Besides, I was attracted to the face of the girl who was posing.
As to the second photo, it was taken on Independence Day of Ukraine when we add the Ukrainian national elements to our clothes. This girl dressed in an embroidered blouse smiled at me while I was taking a photo of her.
(Instagram: @arpixa, Flickr)
This photo captures a bit of magic in a neighborhood alley during sunset. It is particularly meaningful to me as I have spent much of the time this summer exploring our neighborhood close to home, finding beauty in everyday things and occurrences. This was during one of our regular evening walks (much needed after long workdays), when we get to unwind a bit.
It is particularly interesting these days to visit the National Mall and memorials, walking in the wide open spaces, photographing the well known monuments, but always trying to find a new angle.
What’s different about this summer? House parties were replaced with late night Zoom events, and weekend brunches were no longer indoors. It was friends standing several feet apart, laughing and enjoying each others company in Meridian Hill on a beautiful weekend. In frame: @cassyo_photography
The gorgeous landscape of Rock Creek Park, and neighborhood garden along its path, breathes a breath of fresh life into your day. Going outside, and safely exploring this town is what’s made this summer so special. 35MM Film Scan – I sometimes carry around a film camera on nature walks to limit myself. If I have my digital camera, I spend the walk capturing every leaf I see, but with film I pause and capture just one or two moments on the path, that I don’t want to forget, because it literally costs something to click that shutter.
Shuo (Juno) Zhang