Photographers' Blog

Marching to Sousa’s drum beat

Washington, D.C.

By Jonathan Ernst

One of the great things about Washington is historic Capitol Hill, where there’s a lot of life beyond the headlines and punch lines about the U.S. Congress. I like to describe it as a small town attached to the city. We know our neighbors. We walk our dogs.

Sure, our neighbors include senators and congressmen, and every once in a while at the grocery store you’ll find yourself in line behind a woman who happens to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services holding the bouquet of flowers she’s picked out, or a guy who happens to be the director of the CIA as he’s making a selection at the olive bar. But at that moment, they’re just neighbors. They probably walk their dogs too. While a security detail in a large black SUV watches from a discreet distance.

Another great thing about Washington is the Marine Band, nicknamed the President’s Own. They happen to live on Capitol Hill too, in the oldest post in the Corps, known simply as the Marine Barracks Washington — or known even more simply to neighbors by it’s street corner: “8th and I.” If you happen to be driving near 8th and I streets on your way home from the market, it’s not uncommon to see the band’s bus loading up for an event at the White House, a concert across town, or one of their tours around the country. The Marine Band does not mess around. They look great, they sound great and they’re Marines. So when they walk their dogs around Capitol Hill, the other dogs make way.

There is no more important figure in the history of the Marine Band than John Philip Sousa – the March King. He was born to the band at 636 G Street SE on Capitol Hill in 1854. His father John Antonio Sousa was a trombonist in the President’s Own, so John Philip grew up in a house steeped in music and the military and in a town steeped in the excitement of the U.S. Civil War. Music and patriotism would define his life.

After playing with the band, he led them from 1880-1892. His march compositions include the classic Stars and Stripes Forever, The Washington Post, El Capitan and The Gladiator. According to the Marine Band, Sousa made their ensemble into one of the world’s first recording stars. More than 400 of their recordings were available on the new invention called the phonograph before the turn of the last century. Sousa accomplished all of this from his home base on Capitol Hill. Where, if he had a dog, he probably just let it run free, as I imagine the custom was back then.

Becoming a published news photographer

Washington, D.C.

By Jim Bourg

When reports of “shots fired” came in from multiple locations on Washington’s Capitol Hill on October 3, I dispatched Reuters Washington photographers in force, with four staff photographers and two contract photographers racing towards the scene within minutes of the shots being fired. Early on it was unclear how big the incident was and whether the Capitol was in fact under attack, and we were taking no chances if this might become a huge world news event. But in this day of ever present camera phones, and with so many members of the public carrying cameras, unless a news photographer is lucky enough to be right on the scene when spot news happens, there is always someone else who was there shooting pictures first.

Staff photographer Larry Downing was one of the first Reuters photographers on the scene at the Capitol Hill shooting. While Larry was shooting pictures, and as I remotely edited his pictures from the Reuters Washington bureau over a cellular data card connected to his laptop, a young freelance photographer named Alexander Morozov walked up and started asking questions, expressing his interest in becoming a professional news photographer.

Larry responded to him by saying “the only way you could become a professional photographer today is if you have a picture of a body or a helicopter over the Capitol dome. Do you have that?”

Naked ambition on Capitol Hill

Washington, D.C.

By Jonathan Ernst

Police were shutting down intersections. Tensions were high as I begged an officer to let me down a back alley to a secret parking lot I know about – this is Capitol Hill, but it’s also my home. I found my way to the church’s back lot, threw open my trunk, grabbed a pair of bodies and lenses and made sure I had a few memory cards.

The U.S. Capitol was a blur on my right behind the pulsing lights of police cruisers as I hustled over to Pennsylvania Avenue. In the tony northwest quadrant of the city, the White House is this street’s most important landmark, but here in the gritty Southeast is where the real city rubs up against the federal government.

It was brisk, and the wind was really blowing through the breaks in the buildings around me. I was excited. My blood was pumping. This is the city where important people do important things. A city of naked ambition, exposed agendas, bold truths and bald lies.

High times in Washington

Olympia, Washington

By Nick Adams

I had been running all over Seattle for eight hours photographing same-sex weddings that had begun at midnight when I got a call about Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill in Olympia. It has been a whirlwind of excitement in Washington this past week since Initiative 502 and Referendum 74 became law. Referendum 74 legalized same-sex marriage and Initiative 502 legalized recreational use of marijuana for personal use, in private, to people over the age of 21 in Washington.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of photographing people using cannabis out in the open. I’ve only seen it once before at Seattle’s Hempfest, and it’s still such a strange sight to me. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was in Illinois riding along with Galesburg police officers ready to make arrests for possessing any amount of marijuana.

As I walked into the “Friends of Frankie” second floor space I was immediately hit by the smell of cigarette smoke. For a while now, patrons had been paying the ten-dollar fee to use the smoking area since Frank won a legal battle with the state. Only within the past week has marijuana made an appearance. It was interesting to note how segregated the two vices were in the area equivalent to the entire downstairs bar.

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.


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.

Shuttle dream discovery

By Gary Cameron

While every photographer for Reuters is expected to cover, and have a knowledge on an array of events, whether they be political, sports, entertainment, or features, there are certain subjects that always hold a personal interest. For me, if it has wheels, wings, and a sense of history, I want to be there.

The arrival of the space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral, Florida to Dulles International Airport in Virginia (where it will be transferred into the Smithsonian Air and Space collection) yesterday took some minor planning locally, mainly with trying to figure out where our best photo positions would be around Washington, D.C. as Discovery did a last fly-over before landing at Dulles.

Elevation would be key, but also, trying to line up the various Washington landmarks with the aircraft in flight. Discovery was riding piggy-back on a NASA 747 jet, which creates quite a large object moving through the skies. Also, flight altitude was listed at 1,500 feet, which is quite low.

Obamacare under siege

By Jason Reed

President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, signed into law two years ago, is his signature domestic policy achievement. It remains a divisive issue among Americans and is likely to be a key issue ahead of the November 6 election in which he seeks a second term.

For three days this week, the nine Justices heard arguments from both sides on whether the healthcare overhaul is lawful. A ruling is expected in June.

I covered the story and gathered pictures, sound and video from the circus-like atmosphere outside the Supreme Court, and compiled supporting images from other Reuters Photographers for this multimedia project. With a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder mounted to the hotshoe of a camera, I was able to capture some ambient sound of the debate raging between participants outside the courthouse.

Ready to record history

The call came at 10pm on a Sunday night at home. “How soon can you get to the White House”? Reuters had got the urgent call that President Barack Obama was due to make a statement within 30 minutes. It had to be something big to bring the press back so late on a weekend night. Even if I dropped everything now and raced down there, would I be too late?

I was there in 14 minutes – a new personal best, from my home three miles away. Running through White House security gates with my shoe laces still untied, I was thinking that I hadn’t made it in time for whatever the big news was. The scene outside the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address was familiarly quiet, with a couple uniformed Secret Service officers and their squad car.

Inside the press briefing room, wire and newspaper photographers started filtering in, showing varying states of preparedness but all wondering the same question. Why are we here?

  • Editors & Key Contributors