A portrait photography contest was held in order to bring awareness to and encourage participation in the 2010 Census in Washington, D.C. A panel of artists selected 51 portraits among hundreds of submissions and these faces now collectively form the exhibit, “51 Portraits of D.C.” My portrait of David Coia titled, “George,” was among those selected.
I chose David as my subject after seeing him on a number of occasions outside my apartment building. David is currently a man without a permanent home. He often sleeps on the streets while sitting in his wheelchair. I thought that his portrait would help to represent a portion of D.C. residents that are too often not thought of as relevant members of our city and are a difficult segment of the population to capture in the Census data. So, I decided to approach him and ask if he’d like to be my model for this purpose.
After building up the courage to greet him, David and I spoke for 15 minutes or so. We discussed the mundane, such as the weather and his phone plan with Cricket, as well as the interesting, such as the many changes in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, his time in the Navy, and homelessness. He graciously agreed to be my model and we shot about 20 photos. I thanked him, we exchanged contact information, and I went on my way.
After I took a look at the captured images, and with a bit of prodding from my wife, I went back outside and found David wheeling himself across the busy sidewalk in front of the Metro station. I asked David if I could take a few more shots. He agreed and I then wheeled him past all the sidewalk commotion and into a spacious crevice of the nearby building. Along our way, a man passed by and hollered, “hey George.” I don’t know why David didn’t respond, but we kept moving on. He decided to “ham it up” a bit and he added his earphones to this round of photos. In the second shooting I was able to capture the winning shot, “George.”
David’s and the rest of the photographs will be on display at 7:00pm tonight at an opening reception at Social restuarant (see all the winning portraits here). The exhibit will also be displayed at a number of other public places, including the Washington Convention Center. This exhibit was made possible through the coordinated efforts of a number of great D.C. organizations, including the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH), FotoWeek DC, the DC Counts Campaign (DCCC), and Social restaurant.