The Washington Monument carries with it a list of superlatives. At 555 feet, it is the tallest structure in the District, aside from some lofty radio and TV towers. It is also the world’s tallest structure made primarily of stone, and the world’s tallest obelisk. And, while we don’t have the figures handy, it is almost certainly one of the most photographed landmarks in our city. At the time this article was written, there were 577,763 posts on Instagram tagged as #washingtonmonument. In this post, several DC-area photographers share some of their more unusual takes on this landmark.
A Place in the Sun
Photos that creatively position the Monument in alignment with the sun can make for surprising compositions.
Joanna Hiatt Kim explained how she made this “timeslice of a sunset in DC”:
“To create it, I stitched together six different photos of the Washington Monument, taken over a period of 90 minutes during sunset, to show the progression of the light. The first photo was taken about 40 minutes before sunset and the last about 50 minutes after, when it was fully dark.“
It can be fascinating to see how people relate to such a — for the lack of a better term — monumental structure. In many photos, people appear tiny in comparison.
In others, taken with wide angle lenses, people seem to command the landscape.
Images featuring protesters can be especially compelling. Arpita Upadhyaya explains the scene below:
“I took this photo during a peaceful march from the Washington monument to Lincoln memorial for a vigil in memory of George Floyd. While the monument appears to dominate, the crowd of people gathered at its base give a sense of collective strength and optimism. The many moments of peace and resilience have dominated the protests in the city in spite of some unrest. It has been very inspiring to see the energy and spirit at these protests, with a large number of people out on the streets, of all colors and ages to fight for racial justice and change, and hoping for a brighter future.”
One of the most famous views of the Monument comes from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Here, someone shares a quiet moment with his favorite amphibian.
The Washington Monument has also been known to attract the odd reptile.
For the Birds
Birds seem drawn to the Monument, sometimes on their own and at other times, in swarms of Hitchcockian proportions.
Tiptoe through the…
Using a wide angle lens to play with proportions, photographer Beau Finley captured tulips that seem to almost dwarf the Monument.
After damage caused by a 2011 earthquake, the Washington Monument underwent major repairs. The $15 million repair job required a complex scaffold structure. This made for an interesting twist on your friendly neighborhood obelisk.
Washington, We Have Liftoff
In July 2019, for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the National Air and Space Museum projected Apollo 11 on the side of the Monument. (For more on the festivities see our story.)
Yet another intriguing view of the Monument comes in reflections. The most famous of these is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The already awe inspiring sight was enhanced in 2019 during a filming of The Handmaid’s Tale. (We have a post about that too!)
But more humble bodies of water — even puddles — can provide new views of the Monument.
Great blue herons, northern shovelers, and other waterfowl sometimes play in the Monument’s reflection in the Constitution Gardens Pond. (We have not one, but two posts on Constitution Gardens for your reading pleasure!)
There are 50 flags representing the 50 states that surround the Washington Monument and they can make for powerful photo subjects.
In a Different Light
To capture the Washington Monument at its most surreal, Geoff Livingston and Mark H. Schneider took photos in infrared.
Thank you to the photographers who contributed to this article. Follow them on social media:
- Beau Finley, Instagram @smallcraft, Flickr
- Miki Jourdan, Instagram @mikijourdan, Flickr
- Joanna Hiatt Kim, Instagram @johiattkim, Flickr, Etsy
- Rob Klug, Instagram @osoikame
- Geoff Livingston, Instagram: @geoffliving, Photography: geofflivingston.com, Flickr
- Angela N, Instagram @angelaon, Flickr
- Victoria Pickering, Instagram @vpickering, website, Flickr
- Mark H. Schneider, Instagram @markschneiderphoto
- Arpita Upadhyaya, Instagram: @arpixa, Flickr
- Kevin Wolf, Instagram @wolfkann, Flickr