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Relive the fun of our annual anti-Valentine's Day event.
Photographs by Andrew Propp.

Washingtonian hosted an Anti-Valentine’s Day Singles Soiree on February 14 at Penn Social. The area’s most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes participated in an ice-breaker game provided by A Little Nudge and competed for love in Singled Out DC by District Trivia. The contestants of the dating show—Patrick Leddy, Evin Lipman, James Majewski, and Kristen Anderson—were given a gift certificate to South Moon Under to dress for their first dates as well as a free round of drinks provided by Penn Social. Partygoers took festive photos in the photo booth by Tickled and enjoyed Jameson, Blue Moon, and South Moon Under branded cupcakes by Sprinkles.

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Posted at 03:38 PM/ET, 02/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A photojournalism professor says Gerald Ford is probably our most photographed president. By Benjamin Freed
Gerald Ford, in his pajamas, meeting with his staff during a trip to Japan. Photograph by David Hume Kennerly courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Library.

Relative to the length of his presidency, no commander-in-chief may have a deeper visual archive than Gerald Ford. That's the guess of Michael Martinez, a photojournalism professor at the University of Tennessee who's studying six decades of official presidential photography, and has already spent a great deal of time sifting through the work of David Hume Kennerly, who spent two-and-a-half years capturing nearly every minute of Ford's brief stint in office.

"It’s to build a narrative," Martinez tells Washingtonian of official White House photographers' work. Having a full-time photographer only goes as far back as John F. Kennedy, who created the position when he brought in Cecil Stoughton to develop the "Camelot" narrative. Before Kennedy, most official presidential photos were taken by a string of random military photographers, Martinez says. But not all presidential visual legacies are as story-driven as Kennedy's, or as volumnious as Ford's and Barack Obama's, both of whom are photographed as much with their families as they are on official White House business.

"Sometimes they get a feel for the family, and sometimes we get the coldness of the office," Martinez says. "Nixon was very controlling, and Ollie Atkins didn’t have unlimited access, he was more of a public relations guy."

This is the most requested photograph from Nixon's presidency, but it's also a very dull image. Photograph by Ollie Atkins via the National Archives and Records Administration.

Atkins had had a long career in newspaper photograph before signing up with Nixon in 1968, including several World War II campaigns in Africa and Europe. But in the White House, he mostly captured the ceremonial moments for an otherwise media-sensitive president. That's why one of the most famous images from Nixon's presidency—a grip-and-grin shot with Elvis Presley—feels so static.

"You could subsitute a head of state, a governor for Elvis," Martinez says. "The only reason it’s so desirable is because it’s Elvis."

Kennerly, on the other hand, wound up being one of Ford's closest confidants. While Kennerly's most memorable photo might be the one of Ford reaching down to pet his golden retriever, Liberty, the former Time photographer had practically unfettered access to the Ford family's most private moments. Martinez is particularly fond of one of President Ford visiting his wife, Betty, just after her breast-cancer surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and another of Susan Ford preparing to sub in on ceremonial duties during her mother's recovery.

President Gerald Ford visits Betty Ford at Bethesda Naval Hospital following her breast-cancer surgery in October 1974. Photograph by David Hume Kennerly, courtesy the Gerald R. Ford Library.
Susan Ford takes over White House ceremonial duties during Betty Ford's recovery. Photograph by David Hume Kennerly, courtesy the Gerald R. Ford Library.

Not all presidents have been as available as Ford, and some have been even more restrictive than Nixon. Jimmy Carter eschewed having an official photographer entirely, while Bill Clinton—who had Bob McNeely—also left behind a fairly conservative photo archive. Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes were more open with their photographers, as is Obama with Pete Souza. Martinez's research also tracks changes in photography as a profession and a medium: Reagan's first-term photogapher, Michael Evans, made the switch to full-time color portraits, while George W. Bush's shooter, Eric Draper, jumped from film to digital.

One of the biggest factors determining what kind of visual legacy the public gets is whether a president gets the right photgrapher, Martinez says. These relationships can start years before a president actually enters office, and often last long after a term is complete.

"Defining the right photographer is pretty difficult," Martinez says. "Because they campaign for two-plus years before the election, you have your pick of some good ones. I think the question is more so whether they would want to grant any sort of great access, whether they’re comfortable with the photographer and comfortable with their own skin to let people around them. When you’re president you’re never alone."

Souza, the current occupant of the job, had his first White House stint during Reagan's second term, but he'll be remembered more for his work with Obama. Souza first took photos of Obama on assignment for the New York Times in 2004, and latched onto the then-senator's presidential campaign staff in early 2007. But Souza's bigger legacy will be as the first White House photographer whose work is transmitted to the public almost in real time, thanks to his big followings on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

"He’s doing a photo stream and direct to the public," Martinez says. "The media can pick it up, but the public can just sit there and watch it. In previous administrations, they had to go through traditional media of some sort."

But there's a flip side to that progress. While Martinez credits Obama as one of the more generous presidents—"You see the interaction of Michelle and Barack and the kids," he says—Souza is also doing as much PR work as he is archival work, something that started on the first day of the Obama Administration.

Obama is one of the more open presidents when it comes to his photographer, but there's also a lot of PR work. Photograph by Pete Souza via the White House.

"When Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the swearing in on Inauguration Day, there was a re-do private ceremony," Martinez says. "Media were not allowed in. It was a handout from the White House Press Office."

It's a tactic the White House has kept up as it has kept news photographers out of the room during many official presidential moments, much to the frustration of the current crop of photojournalists assigned to cover the president. "A government photographer is no substitute for an independent, experienced photojournalist," the White House News Photographers Association said last February when the administration refused to open the Dalai Lama's visit with Obama to news cameras, but later distributed a Souza photo for media use.

That's a bad trend for journalism, but it also damages the reputation of Souza and his fellow White House photographers through the years.

"Every once in a while that thing happens, and that’s not good, because it becomes a PR function, not a documentary function," Martinez says.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 01:02 PM/ET, 02/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A new photo archive contains thousands of images of life during the Great Depression. By Benjamin Freed
Workmen receiving paychecks in Greenbelt in July 1936. Photograph by Carl Mydans via Library of Congress.

To help build public support for the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration deployed teams of photographers and writers across the country starting in 1935 to, as one official put it, "introduce America to Americans." The Farm Security Administration dispatched well-known shooters of the day like Dorothea Lange, Carl Myadans, and Gordon Parks to nearly every pocket of the map. While the primary mission was to document the Great Depression's effect on agriculture, the sheer volume of the resulting photographs built an archive spanning just about every facet of life in the United States.

The Library of Congress wound up with more than 170,000 photos snapped between 1935 and 1945. The full archive finally went online this week with the launch of a catalog built by researchers at Yale University that allows users to see what their hometowns were like during the deepest years of of the Depression. (There are more than 5,200 photos just from the District.) Here are a few of the more striking shots of Washington we found.

The outskirts of DC (September 1937):

Photograph by John Vachon via Library of Congress.

A farm outside Rockville (June 1940):

Photograph by Jack Delano via Library of Congress.

Good Humor truck visits Alexandria (March 1941):

Photograph by Martha MacMillan Roberts via Library of Congress.

Nabisco delivery in Fairfax (October 1942):

Photograph by Howard Liberman via Library of Congress.

Posted at 04:45 PM/ET, 09/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Happy birthday, Jack the bulldog! By Chris Campbell
Photographs courtesy of Jack the Bulldog’s Facebook page.

Your first birthday is a big deal, no matter whether you have two legs or four furry ones.

Georgetown University’s live mascot, Jack, celebrated his first birthday a few days early with a party on Healy Lawn, complete with ice cream, his own pool, and many friends in attendance.

According to the university’s bio, Jack was born on June 29, 2013, and arrived on campus in October.

Happy birthday, Jack!

Posted at 03:13 PM/ET, 06/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A snow day unleashes DC residents’ creative talents. By Benjamin Freed
Many snow. Amaze sculpture. Wow. Very scarf. Much photographs by Benjamin Freed.

Rather than hurl chunks of snow and ice at each other, the twee folks behind the Facebook-organized snowball fights in Dupont Circle whenever Washington gets hit with a snowstorm decided today's fresh blanket was too wet and heavy for a volley. Instead, they told their would-be combatants to participate in a sculpture contest.

The resulting sculptures were actually satisfyingly creative. Some teams won prizes for their works, like Dave Steadman and Daphne Kiplinger, nearby residents who won a $50 gift certificate to Bar Dupont for "Snobama," a snowman that looks not-at-all like the President (OK, maybe the ears), but was decked out with a campaign button, necktie, and miniature US flag. Steadman and Kiplinger had a long line of people waiting for a photo with their sculpture, including DC Council member Muriel Bowser, who was the only mayoral candidate to take up the organizers' invitation.

Steadman asked some in his crowd if the snowstorm has a social-media friendly name. Someone mentioned that the Washington Post is promoting "Snochi" to play off the Winter Olympics. Someone else asked why snowstorms need names. But Steadman said his wife likes snow puns.

"Snobody doesn't like a snow pun," Kiplinger said, with not even a flake of irony.

Other sculptures that were still intact about 2 PM ranged from frosty replicas of Washington landmarks, creatively posed snowmen, and even some internet memes.

Dave Steadman and Daphne Kiplinger with "Snobama."
Quite the hefty snowman, with Oreos for eyes, teeth, and buttons.

Somebody doesn't want their shirt back.

The medal is from the Akron, Ohio Road Runner Marathon, but we'll give it a 7.5 for Olympic spirit.

This seems more appropriate for an Adams Morgan snowman contest.

It snowed once. It was horrible.

There's a metaphor for the legislative branch somewhere in here.

It's the Washington Monument! What did you think?

See also: More photos of snow!

Posted at 03:20 PM/ET, 02/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
If it truly shows Lincoln in death, this image would be the only one of its kind. By Shane Mettlen

Image courtesy of Ernestine Glessner.

Ernestine Glessner of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was combing a flea market in Harpers Ferry a few years ago when she found what she believes is the only known deathbed portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Glessner is so convinced that after Laurie Verge, director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, wrote on the museum’s website in 2012, “This is no more a photo of Abe Lincoln than it is of me. Ignore her,” Glessner sued Verge and the Surratt House.

Glessner says forensic experts back her claim. “Nobody has ever been able to prove to me this is not a deathbed photo of Abraham Lincoln,” she says.

She’s hardly the first to stake much on a personal connection to the assassination. Laura Keene, who starred in the Ford’s Theatre production of Our American Cousin the night of the murder, purportedly forced her way into the President’s box and cradled Lincoln’s head in her lap. Preserving her blood-stained dress—even reenacting her role that night—was her obsession until her death in 1873.

“Over time it just sort of becomes your life,” historian Michael W. Kauffman says of his own Lincoln fascination.

Kauffman, who owns a replica cast of Lincoln’s face made months before his death—and who has had his own disputes with Verge—says, “Though an entire field of science is devoted to the measure and comparison of photographs, it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Does it look like the subject it is claimed to be? In this case, I think not.”

Verge’s lawyer, who declined to comment, has filed a motion to dismiss.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:41 AM/ET, 01/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
What does your snow day look like? We want to know!
Did you get enough snow to make one of these guys today? Let us know! Photograph via Shutterstock.

We hope you are staying safe and warm during the storm today! We would love to see any snow photos you have to share from your commute or of what's coming down outside your window. Send them our way at or tweet us @washingtonian. We will post our favorites right here!

Posted at 09:39 AM/ET, 12/10/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
It's going to be a crowded house. Of pachyderms, that is. By Benjamin Freed
Asian elephants Kamala, Swarma, and Maharani will join the National Zoo in spring 2014 by way of the Calgary Zoo. Photograph by Bill Quayle/Calgary Zoo.

The National Zoo's elephant exhibit will get a bit more crowded next spring when it adds three female Asian pachyderms on an extended loan from the Calgary Zoo. When the trio of elephants arrives, the Elephant Community Center's herd will grow to seven.

Two of the newcomers, Kamala and Swarna, were born in the wild in 1975 and were transported to Calgary the following year by way of a Sri Lankan elephant orphanage. The third, Maharani, is Kamala's offspring, born at the Calgary Zoo in 1990.

When they arrive—and complete a customary 30-day quarantine—the new elephants will join the existing herd comprised of 65-year-old Ambika, 38-year-old Shanthi, 11-year-old (and lone male of the bunch) Kandula, and the most recent addition, 37-year-old Bozie. Bozie, recently imported from a zoo in Baton Rouge, La., is the one with a much-publicized knack for painting, though she hasn't exercised her artistic talents since arriving in DC. (National Zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Zoon says that here, zookeepers try to focus on the elephant's natural, rather than trained, skills.)

And even though seven pachyderms seems like a lot, there's room for more. The National Zoo says its elephant exhibit is large enough to house eight to ten adult specimens and their young.

Posted at 03:42 PM/ET, 08/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
What Sunny can expect from life as a First Dog.
Official White House photograph by Pete Souza.

Michelle Obama tweeted the announcement Monday evening that the First Family had added a new puppy to the mix, a female Portuguese water dog named Sunny. She’s intended as a companion for Bo, who Mrs. O. has said doesn’t get enough interaction with other dogs. So what can Sunny expect as a presidential pet? Check out the slideshow for a glimpse at a White House dog’s life, as told by Bo.

Posted at 12:28 PM/ET, 08/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
One local woman’s quest to brighten your day. By Alison Kitchens
Photograph by Lorie Shaull.

Meet DC’s tiniest resident, the Little Heart Man.

He’s the brainchild of Lorie Shaull, a government consultant by day and pipe cleaner sculptor by night. Inspired by street artists, Shaull began placing the men around the District this past summer.

You’re most likely to catch him hanging out around Dupont Circle or Capitol Hill, says Shaull, who puts her creations in places she thinks they will be easy to spot.

Her goal? Simply to make DC residents smile.

“I happened to notice someone walk by one of them once and just saw them react positively to it,” she said. “And I thought that was really sweet.”

You can see more photos of the Little Heart Man in action on Facebook.

Posted at 02:30 PM/ET, 04/05/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()