Photo: The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The sun constantly paints new stories on the exterior of the new Museum of African American History and Culture on the Capital Mall.

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I took this photo of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in June. During previous trips to D.C. during the past few years, I had seen the building at different phases of its construction and had been curious about how the exterior panels would work when finished. This weekend (September 24, 2016), the museum is opening officially, and I’m happy to see that the photo is used by lots of news sites in their coverage. (Almost all of my photography on Flickr is licensed using Creative Commons 4.0 so that anyone can use them for any purpose if they attribute the source.)

I’m passionate about photography, but purely as a hobby. Primarily, I am intrigued by the ways sunlight creates an interplay between nature and the man-made. Having such an interest makes the new museum a place for two types of reflection: The metaphor type a visitor can have by sitting and watching its patterns change caused by the non-metaphor kind of reflection of the sun’s dance on the building’s exterior.

In Smithsonian magazine, before construction on the museum began, architect David Adjaye described the bronze mesh that enables the reflection:

“(It is) a really complicated part of the building, where we’ve really been sort of inventing a new material, a bronze-coated alloy and devising a new a new way of applying it. Essentially, we are looking towards the guild traditions of the South. The freed slaves would move into professional guilds, including the ironworking guild. There were very skilled African-American casters— a lot of the early architecture of Louisiana and the South was built by black people. So what we wanted to do was somehow acknowledge that important beginning of transition from the agrarian to the professional class, and to reference this powerful casting tradition.”

Like any great art, the building (powered by the sun) will reveal different stories to different people who see it.

About the photo

While in D.C., I had a couple of hours free between meetings and other commitments, so I grabbed a Captial Bikeshare bike about an hour before sunset and did what superstar photographer Bob Schatz calls “chasing light.” (My “training” as an amateur photographer consists of marveling — and staring — at the incredible work of Bob and other photographers whose work has appeared in Hammock publications or other projects during the past 25 years.)

I had scouted the area earlier in the day and guessed that a good place to shoot a photo would be from the sidewalk on the east side of Pennsylvania Avenue. I got very lucky. Had I taken the photo from any other angle or location, the wall would have looked flat. Thirty feet up or down the Pennsylvania Ave. sidewalk, the light didn’t work like this — it was monochromatic.

As I said, when I posted the shot on my Flickr account, I granted permission for anyone to use the photo for any reason, with attribution. It’s been fun to see that over 20 websites have used the photo in their coverage of the opening of the museum. Here’s a Google image search of my photo with each photo representing a place it is being used on the web.

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(Oh, and one more thing: Shot with an iPhone 6)