This Friday May 8, WWII planes are flying over the National Mall. To enjoy the sky parade, Exposed DC is hosting an event around the Jefferson Memorial. Photographing airplanes flying in the sky can be complicated—timing is everything. To help anyone bringing their camera down to the Mall, I asked aviation photography expert, Chris Williams, who also taught our Knowledge Commons class at Gravelly Point last fall, a few questions about his craft and to share a few tips about capturing great aeronautical images.
The art world has a reputation of being a competitive place, but often here, in the nation’s capital, we see camaraderie bloom between artists. The new photography group, Contrario Collective, has a mission to unite photographers to inspire each other and create collectively. They opened an exhibit featuring work by their members last Thursday, so I stopped by to see the display and talk to the photographers about what their goal is for the collective.
Victoria Milko says she felt the need to assemble a collective in D.C. that is a “constructive place where a bunch of us can get together, take photos, and critique each other’s work with no pretense of being competitive.” In the art community, she says, “there are two sides to the spectrum: you can share your information and learn from each other or, you can be really competitive and not talk about what you’re doing.” Milko describes her friend, Emma McAlary as easy-going, kind, and creative, making her the perfect partner to help organize a collective. The two women share the same values and ideas about photography today, especially in Washington, D.C. McAlary says, “Victoria and I got together one day and we were just talking about the landscape of the D.C. art scene—photography specifically—and we thought there isn’t quite a place for us. And we want to go against the grain—hence the name—Contrario.” They wanted to enlist more like-minded photographers to create a collective based on what Milko describes as an “idea that isn’t typically found in the photography scene.”
A few years back I happen to be working Holland around the same time as D.C. photographer Katie Fielding was passing through, so we met up and I interviewed her for InstantDC. A self-described turophile, Fielding spends her work days as a teacher in Virginia. The rest of her time is spent traveling and taking photographs, both around the U.S. and overseas. I sat down with Fielding again, this time at a local coffee shop in D.C. to hear about her recent travels, her thoughts on Instagram, and the value of a photograph in a sea of images.
When I joined Agence France-Presse (AFP) in April 2007 as a computer technician and budding photojournalist, I asked the chief editor for names of photographers to keep an eye on. Some of the agency’s key players were a given, but she mentioned then-stringer Brendan Smialowski and stopped, as if there were nothing more to talk about. I asked why she’d name a stringer in such a crowded market as Washington, D.C., and not back her argument with an explanation. She simply replied, “Just go look at his stuff.”
A cursory Google image search of Smialowski’s work will leave you wondering. The pictures returned are simple D.C. photojournalism fodder of dreary politicos and pundits. They don’t even follow the trusty photojournalism formula of “establisher, medium, action, reaction, reverse, close-up, and closing.” I was thoroughly confused. Not until I visited AFP’s ImageForum (or Getty Images for distribution in the USA) did I get his full story.
If you frequent downtown, take public transportation, participate in cultural events, or just go about your everyday life in D.C., you might find yourself in one of Victoria Pickering’s photographs.
Victoria’s work has been featured in the Exposed DC Photography Show twice (2013 and 2014), with work that provides a unique perspective of the urban environment and how people fill the city and its spaces.
Because she posts her images online under a creative commons license, Victoria’s work has been featured on numerous websites, which has subsequently led to commercial work that she wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. We asked Victoria a few questions about her love for photography.