statue

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial by Todd Henson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath

In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday let’s take a short visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. The street address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., referencing the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and cherry blossoms across tidal basin

The memorial opened to the public in 2011. The design, created by ROMA Design Group, centers on a large stone sculpture created by the Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. In the sculpture Martin Luther King, Jr. is seemingly pulled from a mountain of stone behind it. The theme for this design came from part of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech where King said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Behind all this is a curved wall of quotations facing the tidal basin, and wide walkways to accommodate large numbers visitors.

Cherry blossoms, crowds and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin with Lincoln Memorial in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath and controversial drum major quote

It didn’t take long before there was some controversy surrounding the memorial. One of the quotations on the side of the main sculpture read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” This was a paraphrase from the longer, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Some people felt the paraphrased quote misrepresented King’s words, so in 2013 the text was removed from the sculpture.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with drum major quote

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with stone of hope quote

I photographed the memorial both with and without the controversial quote. Seeing how things do change over time reminded me why it’s important to take the time to photograph subjects when you’re there, regardless of whether you think the photo might turn out well. Sometimes it’s more about documenting something you may never see again, or something that may never happen again. Times do change, and we won’t always have a second chance to go back and photograph it again. This is something I need to periodically be reminded of.

Long exposure showing moving crowds around Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (drum major quote removed). This photograph is an Infrared black and white.

Another angle of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in infrared black and white

If you’d like to learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial visit the National Park Service website dedicated to the memorial. And by all means, if you have the opportunity, go visit the memorial and the many others in the area. The tidal basin is especially beautiful during early spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. It gets very crowded, but it’s always worth the trip.

Profile of sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Black and white of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. The American holiday marking his birthday occurs the 3rd Monday of each January. In 2017, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is January 16.

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial through cherry blossoms

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Some of the images in this post first appeared in Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms - 2016. A different version of an infrared image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was posted in Infrared Experiments During National Cherry Blossom Festival. And for images of more National Park lands, including monuments and memorials around Washington, D.C., check out National Park Service Centennial.

National Gallery of Art - West Building by Todd Henson

A statue of Mercury atop a fountain at the center of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Today I’m going to depart a bit from nature and outdoor photography. Earlier this year my brother and I visited the West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The museum contains such a large number of works of art, I could spend the entire day in that one museum and feel I still hadn’t seen everything. And with so many other museums close by there’s that itch to keep moving, to see more. I don’t get out to museums often enough.

Viewing artwork and a visitor through an entryway. The painting on the left is Saint Benedict Orders Saint Maurus to the Rescue of Saint Placidus by Fra Filippo Lippi. On the right is The Healing of Palladia by Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian by Fra Angelico. In the center is The Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi.

Through the archway is a painting by Leonardo de Vinci called Ginevra de' Benci. I love the layout of the museum, how archways become frames into works of art.

I think seeing all this artwork can help inspire creativity. You see how other people have interpreted their world, or expressed their emotions. I’m mostly a photographer, but I love seeing paintings from such a diverse group of painters, so many different styles and subjects. I don’t necessarily enjoy all the paintings, but there’s alway something there to learn from. Seeing how different artists handled light and perspective. A docent showed us one painting where the artist was able to beautifully capture perspective. As you walked along the painting it was almost as if the perspective changed. Fantastic.

A visitor viewing Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci. On the left is Madonna and Child by Sandro Botticelli. On the right is The Adoration of the Child by Filippino Lippi. Again, I love the layout of the museum. I consider that artwork, as well.

The museum is also full of statues and other objects, something I don’t think you can really appreciate except in person. You might be able to view a painting online since a painting is mostly a two dimentional form of art, though there can be some limited three dimensionality with the volume of paint the artist applies to different areas. But with statues you can’t beat seeing them in person. I love photos of statues, and I love making photos of statues. But you really do have to see them to fully appreciate them, the play of light and shadow, the form and texture.

Another example of framing the artwork using the museum archways. Here a visitor studies Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) by Francisco Antonio Gijon. I like how the visitor has his leg out, just as Saint John, and how they both seem to lean in the same direction.

This is another photo of Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) by Francisco Antonio Gijon, but this time without the viewer. Here you can see the entire statue, but I prefer the image with the viewer.

Looking through the photos I made at the museum I realize I’m also drawn to how the museum chooses to display the artwork. There is an art to display. And of course, it’s always fun trying to capture people while they view the artwork. And finally, there is the architecture of the museum, itself. The craftsman that built it were themselves artists.

I love the enormous variety of objects in the museum. Here is the Ciborium for the Sacrament by Desiderio da Settignano.

Winged Victory by Antonio Canova is a magnificent piece beautifully lit such that shadows of the statue float on the wall just behind it. Amazing.

Take some time and visit a museum once in a while. It’s well worth it.

A Morning Stroll By The National Gallery - The West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This view is from across Madison Drive.

The photograph above is available in the Shop as wall art or on a variety of products. Search for it under the title, A Morning Stroll By The National Gallery.



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