Last night I learned some things. For one, taking (good) photos at night is really hard. I participated in the FotoWeekDC Night Visions event, which is part of the weeklong celebration of photography. An hour before leaving home, I realized that my camera was out of batteries, and with it being about 10 years old, hardly anyone was selling the batteries I needed. I went to three CVS stores to find them. I also needed to dust off my manual and find out how to change my aperture settings. I think I could have spent some more time on that, but, during the night, my friend, Julia, who is a photographer, helped me a lot with troubleshooting my shaky, blurry, photos. She showed me how to adjust my shutter speed and flash settings to combat the darkness.
image:"Mysterious" courtesy of Julia Liapidova
I arrived at the FotoSpace (1838 Columbia Rd.) which is a small gallery space, around 9 PM. It was swarming with volunteers, photo judges, and photographers, who were chatting, eating snacks and drinking piping hot coffee. A cheerful security guard was welcoming participants to the space and imploring people to be safe as they embarked on their adventures.
The event, which ran from 8 PM to 4 AM, was set up as a contest and instant exhibition. Photographers were to bring back their photos before 4 AM, and submit a selection to the judges who would pick one image to print and blow up and display on the gallery walls. There were also prizes for the best photos.
I think what impressed me the most as I was hanging out and waiting for my partners in crime was the energy in FotoSpace. I loved seeing such an eclectic range of people, ranging from early 20s to late 60s, and racially diverse. There were people with professional cameras, to amateurs with older equipment (me) to iPhone photogs. People were friendly and excited. My friends and I grabbedsome coffee and headed out around 9:30 PM to the still quiet Adams Morgan 18th Street strip.
I took several blurry photos, deleted them and tried again. It was fun to see other photographers, roaming about 18th Street, pausing, snapping, considering, snapping again, and looking for the next shot. We talked to bouncers, Julia made a friend of a wheelie-popping Rascal rider. We headed down to U Street to capture the details.
It was cold. I wished that I brought gloves. After a couple of hours we stopped for a much-needed margarita break at Alero on U Street, which was having a throw down dance party. We got some shots there too from our table. We headed to Dunkin Donuts, which was new and brightly colored and warm. We got more coffee.
Next, we headed back to FotoSpace to submit our photos around 1:30 – 2 AM. We had done as much as we could do. Even though we were really tired, I enjoyed hanging out there, watching people select their photos for submission and swap stories. I was really impressed with the images that were being pasted to the wall. We had passed up some of those shots along our path, while in some cases, we had tried to shoot the same things without success. Some people had headed across town, or to the monuments. Some wandered under bridges, while others set up their tripods on the sidewalk and waited.
The judges were working tirelessly, reviewing images, which were projected on the wall, and making their selections. It was fun to watch the exhibition emerge.
I love this city and so I was excited about the idea of using it to make art. I’m not a photographer, but I like to try new things. This was a great way to learn some techniques and to challenge myself.
And, surprisingly, the judges chose Julia’s photo of me for the show! (It was in a dead-heat with a dramatic photo she captured of an altercation outside of a tattoo parlor.)
There are more FotoWeekDC events happening. Check out the schedule here.
18th Street Lights Up