The Architecture of Cities: Washington, D.C.

I have walked through the corridors of modern American history. The moments are like the silent cinema. The mouths move quite quickly. The voices are quite quiet. There are animated pauses. The chronology of our time matters less as time goes by. The silent power of Washington, D.C. whispers: “Listen”.

Photographers from history like Mathew Brady, Edward Curtis pleaded for the powers of D.C. to support their endeavors. They merely wanted to do in their time what I have spent decades doing: Recording components of our lives before it all vanishes: Some things have to be remembered.

I, at one time focused my camera on the Lincoln Memorial: Lincoln’s gaze in any light emboldens us. The contralto Marian Anderson once stood with arms widening. She gave us “My Country, ‘tis of Thee”.

Imagine tearing up to the anthem: One song, one statue and I realized I was meant to see history in one frame: Some say that a great voice aspires to ascend to the skies above: I think a great voice cascades down from the gods to us mere mortals. When the gods have spoken, a photographer should leave well enough alone. I nodded to Lincoln and celebrated Marian.

I put words in photos and photos in words.

This Washington, D.C. always makes me feel like I am parading naked through America’s most intimate secrets: I have never felt alone in this city because I am accompanied by voices; History’s voices.

When I have walked the six or so miles along Pennsylvania Ave, I always dream about all of my dreams: The stripping Congressman with the real life stripper: The famous Ted Kennedy signing my presidential campaign poster. The other Senator who ran for president escorting me to the  museum  hosting Paul Gauguin’s retrospective: My afternoon photographing  a soon to be president: The snipers that held the city captive and protected the secrets after 9/11: The Museum Directors’ and curators who hosted me during other photography moments: Sitting with my mother at the W Hotel as an ex president elevated in a helicopter :destination unknown: The Blues vocalist who made Blues Alley my private sanctuary.

So many intimate historical moments for my eyes. It reminded me of a blind man telling me that the only way to really see is to be blind. I am always blinded by the events in my life, until I am here with you: Then there is this great moment of clarity that seems to whisper: “look”.

My good fortune in my photography life is that I am always on an imaginary transport: I am taken to a thousand fragments of the planet through the notion that there is something new to see: For me it is the science, math and art of architecture.

Ron Arad Watergate Hotel

My mind travels faster than the speed of light. But the heart of the matter pauses with every single frame: My moment living with our built environment:architecture.

All photographs by Richard Schulman.

Richard Schulman is a photographer and writer. His books include Portraits of the New Architecture and Oxymoron & Pleonasmus. He lives in New York City.