Photographers' Blog

A tourist in my own backyard

By Kevin Lamarque

There may be no free lunch, but for those seeking to take in art and education, visiting Washington is a bargain. The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, includes 19 museums and galleries. All of which are free of charge. Add to that the National Gallery of Art, and the only toll you will pay is the fatigue on your legs as you wander from site to site in the nation’s capital.

I have upon occasion been lured into the National Gallery of Art, located next to the U.S. Capitol, before or after covering my news assignments on Capitol Hill. The National Gallery of Art provided me with a temporary escape from the world of politics that dominates this town. It also gave me some much needed visual stimulation. I would rarely come out without some interesting photo for Reuters. I enjoyed trying to capture the aesthetic relationship between the physical space of the gallery, the art and the visitor.

VIEW A LARGE FORMAT GALLERY: SMITHSONIAN STILLS

I wondered if the other galleries offered similar visual opportunities. Summer is high tourist season in Washington, a good time for me to join the masses and see what they come to see. My plan was to visit the National Gallery and all the Smithsonian museums and galleries located downtown in an attempt to make at least one nice photo at each locale. It’s a checklist I should have completed long ago. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’d only visited a few of these places in my 13 years of living here.

I had originally wanted to do all these sites in one day, “power touring” like so many visitors to this town seem to practice. There would be no waiting around for the perfect tableau. I would simply enter, have a quick walk around and hopefully come away with a photo or two I was happy with. Then it would be on to the next.

News happens in Washington and it has to be covered. So my one-day plan hit the back burner – on day one. It was probably just as well. After half a day of hitting three galleries, I felt the same mental and physical fatigue tourists everywhere feel. Like the many teens and toddlers being dragged around Washington by well-meaning, but out of touch parents, I really just wanted an ice cream or a swim at a pool, maybe even a good whining session. I felt their pain. I decided spreading it out over a few days might actually be better and keep my eye a bit fresher.

Flesh-eating beetles at the museum

By Herwig Prammer

When I came to Vienna for my studies in the mid-1980s, the Museum of Natural History Vienna (NMH) was my absolute favorite.

At that time most of the 39 exhibition halls of the NMH had never been changed. It was more like an oddity cabinet than a museum; historic stuffed animals eerily stared out from behind dead eyes – some even from the famous James-Cook expedition.

Mothballs, dust and creeky wooden floors, there was not even electricity in most of the exhibition halls back then. I had to leave when it became dark outside. Most of the time I was the only visitor. Fantastic, if a bit creepy.

The view from Auschwitz

By Kacper Pempel

Each year we cover at least two main stories from Auschwitz. The first story is at the end of January when there are ceremonies to commemorate the liberation of the death camp by Soviet troops in 1945, and the second story, which happens around May, is called the “March of Living”.

This year the 27th of January marked the 67th anniversary of the death camp liberation by Soviet troops. The ceremonies were subdued, with fewer officials coming than I was used to. So I decided to cover this time in a different way. Not only as a document from the anniversary but from a more emotional point of view.

My first visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum was 7 years ago. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I tried to hide behind my camera and only focus on pictures but it was impossible. I never expected what I saw there, because it is impossible to be prepared for these kinds of views and imaginations which this place develops. I was walking around the museum in Auschwitz and then in Birkenau the whole day and I remember that I was losing power in batteries because it was minus 20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). My fingers where completely frozen. When I came inside the barracks in Birkenau and saw the bunks for prisoners I couldn’t imagine how anyone survived during winter time.

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