Learning from Behind the Lens
In a city where the average discussion can revolve around a variety of different political topics, anyone who isn't politically involved can feel as if he or she is drowning in information. So the way I have felt grounded is to look at this beautiful city through a camera lens instead of through lecturers, tour guides, web articles, or politicians. Through a camera lens, a person can not only capture a moment in time, but can also portray so much more.
Coming from a photogenic city such as New York, it can be daunting to think of even attempting to photograph another city - and yet, D.C has come to offer so much. From memorials to monuments, museums to libraries and fireworks to festivals, there has been so much more that this city has given me. I've learned about the more than 57,000 names that have appeared on the Vietnam Memorial (pictured at left). I've learned that the Library of Congress isn't just a landmark but that it also once housed President Thomas Jefferson's entire book collection because he was broke - only to be partially burnt down in later years. And, of course, I learned that although New York City might have fantastic firework displays, nothing can beat the magnificence of Washington, D.C, on the 4th of July (pictured below, at right).
Other participants in the Machon Kaplan program can talk about the war in Iraq, reproductive rights and other issues with such conviction that it's impressive, but the one thing they can't talk to me about is the splendor of D.C. Behind the lens of a camera, I'm able to bring that to life, and although I might not be able to tell you which number of Congress we are up to or what exactly is contained in the health care reform law, I can learn so much more through so many other ways.
The Machon Kaplan program has brought me up close and personal with the city of Washington, D.C. Although our relationship hasn't been the smoothest of sailings, I can look back and say, "Thank you for the amazing time," with a smile.
Ariel Zeig is a participant in the Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship Program, interning at the Center for Medicare Advocacy. All photos in this post, with the exception of the headshot, were taken by her.