This is the first photo post associated with my Vemödalen Project concept. If you missed the initial post, you can find it here.
I was down in Washington a few weeks ago. Obviously, the monuments in the nation’s capital are among the most photographed subjects in the country, so figuring out a way to do it differently was a challenge. Just as obviously, with something experimental like this, some attempts are going to be abject failures. But after seeing the results of my efforts, I found a few frames that offered the sort of difference from the usual views that I was looking for.
First up is the Washington Monument. Instantly recognizable and a very simple shape, there isn’t much one can do to change the overall appearance. Given the forced perspective of shooting a very tall subject from the ground, there are limits to the angles one can use. So instead I decided to try something that would diverge from the typical exposure, showing the white marble as a much darker tone, while using a K2 yellow filter and exposing for the sky to maintain significant texture there, while silhouetting the monument and the flags around the base. Shooting from a bit of distance with a 35mm lens allowed good isolation from the surroundings while still capturing the entire monument.
The next two photos are from a lesser-known monument, one that’s actually across the Potomac in Alexandria, VA – the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The main tower is an impressive structure, but the grounds are equally interesting. Rather than focus on the monument, I chose to work with a lower structure that holds a bust of Washington, and the steps leading to the tower base.
There’s something about a disembodied head that always seems a bit strange. I decided to make it even stranger by shooting up at it and incorporating the strong diagonal line of the stone wall on which it is mounted. The result has a sort of Soviet brutalist feel about it, which is of course quite at odds with the classical appearance of the monument, and thus perfect for my purposes here.
Finally, the steps. Most monuments seem to incorporate large flights of steps leading up to them, and many photographers use these to sort of lead the eye toward the main subject. I decided to shoot them obliquely from above, and to isolate them from their context. There was a lot of sunlight, so the shadows were deep, which added more strange angles. I had to crop the shot down to get the look I wanted, which was sort of a cross between M.C. Escher and H.P. Lovecraft’s description of the the great temple of Cthulhu.
So there’s a little taste of what the Vemödalen Project is trying to achieve. If nothing else, it’s certainly an interesting mental exercise.