National Geographic Traveler magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary this October. To commemorate the milestone, photo editors Ben Fitch and Tyler Metcalfe were given the assignment to research vintage National Geographic photographs made in their home base of Washington, D.C. They set out to explore the locations depicted in a handful of their favorite images and reframed the pictures in a modern context.
Ben Fitch: Initially, I was captivated by the excitement of the scene in this 1919 photograph, depicting President Woodrow Wilson leading a “Welcome Home” procession for World War I soldiers through downtown Washington. The mass of men in top hats and long coats, parading down Pennsylvania Avenue as biplanes and blimps flew overhead, was extremely dynamic. Although I knew I wouldn’t find a similar scene occurring in the same location today, I wanted to find what was still interesting about the place nearly a hundred years later. I found that the chaos of commuters in rush hour traffic juxtaposed well with the sea of soldiers in the original photograph, and I decided to emphasize that movement through a slow shutter speed. Although the moods of the old and new pictures are very different, the images are connected through the elements that are still the same after so many years, most prominently being the Old Post Office Pavilion looming in the right of both frames.
Tyler Metcalfe: When I came across this boathouse image from the 1940s, I liked the fact that it displayed a casual pastime activity for the people of DC in that era. My love for photography lies in the adventure behind the image, and as someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, I was excited to re-create this picture within a modern context. I spent an evening on the waters of the Potomac River exploring the area around the Washington Canoe Club boathouse and was surprised to find that little had changed. I expected to see a slew of modern buildings penetrating the landscape, but I found that much of the area exists as it had in the original photograph. In creating a new image, I wanted to highlight the introduction of SUPing (stand-up paddleboarding) as a modern water sport, and so I waited for a SUPer to paddle into my frame.