Travel Ban Protest - January 29

Last weekend, I checked Twitter and saw that every major trending topic was related to the travel ban Donald Trump enacted on Friday, January 27. That evening, airports around the country slowed to a crawl as demonstrators flooded terminals and drop off areas to protest the ban and demand the release of detained travelers.

Over the next 24 hours, word spread quickly on social media of additional coordinated protests in major cities beginning at 1pm on Sunday. I grabbed my cameras and made my way over to Lafayette Square in front of the White House where several thousand people had gathered with signs, flags, and megaphones. 

The crowd squeezed around the temporary fencing still surrounding the Inauguration parade reviewing stand. I joined a group of demonstrators and journalists who had pulled themselves onto the low balcony that surrounds the Federal Claims court. Around me, protestors climbed the metal bars covering the court's windows for a better view. Every few minutes, a mix of different chants erupted from the group. 

I slowly made my way around the balcony, past couples holding hands and women in hijabs, military veterans and young children seated atop their parents shoulders. At 3pm, the crowd setoff down Pennsylvania Avenue and marched past Trump International Hotel to the Capitol Building. The hotel has become the focus of so many protests over the last few months that I wonder if anyone still books rooms there. 

One chant in particular that I heard stuck with me. It went "welcome to your ninth day, we won't go way." Considering that this is the third protest I've photographed in a week, it seems like the protestors are sticking true to that mantra. 

Women's March DC - January 21

Yesterday, I joined over 500,000 people in DC and millions in sister events worldwide to show support for women's rights. It was by far the largest crowd I've ever been a part of. Supporters flew from across the country, drove from neighboring cities, and filed into crowded metro stations, some waiting over 2 hours to catch a train into the city. The final mass of people overflowed from the National Mall onto the surrounding streets and completely shutdown major roads around downtown DC. 

The attendees covered so much ground that the original march route, from the Capitol Building to The White House, was completely packed. I was unable to get within a block of the main stage due to the densely packed crowd. Every few minutes, a rumbling roar of cheers would spread through the crowd, starting near the stage and sweeping backwards. Around the main group, spontaneous side marches broke out like slow moving rivers of pink hats, shirts, signs, and balloons. There was constantly movement all around. In the chaos of so many moving people, I'm not sure if the main march ever started. 

Although very claustrophobic at times, I was struck by how polite everyone was, even when crammed shoulder to shoulder on tight side streets. National Guardsmen stationed around the march smiled and took photos with demonstrators. 

To get to the north side of the event, I joined hundreds of marchers on 12th Street as they walked through cavernous tunnels beneath the mall on the normally busy roadway. We emerged into daylight a few hundred yards from Trump International Hotel. Booing and chants of "shame" sprung up all around as many demonstrators laid their signs against the newly placed crowd barricades surrounding the hotel. On the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building, a flood of demonstrators streamed by. Late into the night, demonstrators filled restaurants, stores, and coffee shops around the city. 

Altogether, I walked over 30 miles this weekend, met dozens of people, and took thousands of photos. I'm not sure what the next 4 years will hold for our country but I'm glad I was able to be a part of this past weekend's historic events. 

Inauguration Day 2 - January 20

Another 6am wakeup and a brisk walk past parked dump trucks blocking streets around the security permitter brought me to an inauguration entry check point on 10th Street NW. In front of the tall metal fences, several dozen protestors had gathered with signs and megaphones. As I tried to move around them, a man in a black sweatshirt with a bandana over his face blocked off the sidewalk with a metal crowd barrier. "This checkpoint is closed," he told me, before disappearing into the crowd. Moments later, police stepped in to remove the barricades long enough for me to pass through. In response, several demonstrators linked arms and fanned out across the sidewalk in a renewed effort to prevent entry. 

Scenes like this could be found at many check points yesterday, as protestors obstructed entrances and created long lines and hours long wait times. Once inside, I walked down Pennsylvania avenue towards Capitol Hill through sparse crowds. Thousands of law enforcement officers lined both sides of the street, in some areas outnumbering spectators and demonstrators alike. Within the United States Naval Memorial, a larger group of protestors had set up a stage and PA system.

Once the presidential motorcade carrying Obama and Trump, passed on its way to the Capitol building I was able to cross Pennsylvania avenue and enter the National Mall. To my right, a sea of faces stretched out towards the Washington Monument. To my left, the white Capitol dome shone brightly against the grey sky. At first it was difficult to gauge the size of the crowd but, as I walked closer to the Capitol building, large gaps still remained amongst the audience.

The atmosphere was surprisingly subdued as the ceremony began. As the announcer called out the names of those in attendance, some, like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Barrack Obama, were met with scattered boos and jeers. It wasn't until Trump began the oath of office that the crowd began to really liven up. As he repeated the last words of the oath, members of the crowd around me lit victory cigars. 

After the ceremony ended, I walked the 11 blocks to 18th street and the end of the security perimeter. I had heard that protestors on 12th street NW and L had smashed a bus station earlier in the day and began walking that way. I arrived to find a tense standoff between rows of police in riot gear and several groups of protestors in the park. Most of the demonstrators were peaceful and respectful but several had covered their faces with black bandanas, goggles, and gas masks. I rounded a corner to a blocked off street and squeezed through the tight space between the protestors and a building to get a better shot of the opposing lines.

I snapped a few images of a young child on top of his mother's shoulders and then two men wearing "Make America Great Again" hats passed in front of me between the protestors and the police. When the two men entered the crowd, someone sent a full plastic water bottle sailing towards one of their heads. It made contact with a crunching thud and was quickly followed by hands slapping the men. Police responded with pepper spray and quickly moved in to push the crowd back down 12th street.

That was all it took to ignite an outpouring of violence from a small sub sect of the protestors. Members of the black bloc group dressed in dark clothes with black bandanas covering their faces turned and threw chunks of rock and broken concrete towards the lines of police. Thick pink smoke billowed from the park behind us and flash bang grenades detonated around me. One demonstrator turned and began walking back towards the advancing law enforcement, both his hands raised in a gesture of defiance. More pepper spray and flash bang explosions followed. The crowd retreated towards the intersection of K Street and 12th where another standoff ensued. Some demonstrators dragged newspaper boxes into the street, which would later be set a blaze along with trash cans and a parked limousine. 

All together, the group of protestors turned rioters comprised a very small group of the crowd. When some black bloc members began throwing rocks at the windows of a local business, bystanders called out for them to stop. "This is what we came here for," they shouted back in response before running off down the street.

After several minutes, I turned and began walking home. My eyes and mouth burned from the residual pepper spray clouds. Behind me, the booming reverberations of flash bang grenades echoed off the buildings and people walked passed with frightened looks on their faces. Altogether, 217 people were arrested and two officers were injured. I watched the rest of the day's events from a friend's apartment. Later that evening, Trump's motorcade flew by a few feet in front of us on its way to an inaugural ball. This time, there were no protestors. 

Inauguration Day 1 - January 19

I woke up at 6am for the final prep day for the inauguration to slowly make my way towards the Capitol building. Most of the roads downtown are blocked off by DC metro police and an array of fences and white concrete barriers prevent vehicles from passing, forcing me to take winding route towards my destination. I managed to find a parking spot 3 blocks back on the hill. The Capitol at sunrise was a surprisingly peaceful place. Downtown DC stretched out from behind the illuminated Capitol dome and its lights glittered in the pre-dawn darkness. It felt surreal that, in 24 hours, that same stretch would be filled with hundreds of thousands of spectators, police, and VIPs. Aside from a hand full of runners and staffers navigating he narrow paths between the 8 foot tall crowd barriers, all was quiet. 

Closer to the Capitol, satellite trucks and dozens of pre-fab trailers lined the South side of the building along with a row of catering trucks emitting savory smells from baking food. A few scattered news crews were setting up outside of the ticketed seating areas as the sun began to turn the sky pink and gold. Seen from across the reflecting pool with only one other lone cameraman for a companion, it really was a beautiful morning.   

As the sun cleared the horizon, I began to make my way back through gridlocked traffic as thousands of commuters squeezed onto the remaining open roads near the hill. Around me, lights began to turn on in the windows of row homes and apartments as the city came to life. 

Later that afternoon, I walked down to Pennsylvania Avenue along route for tomorrow's Inaugural Parade. The whole street from the Capitol to the White House is blocked off and bikers and pedestrians strolled down the empty street, past the metal fences and dozens of parked police cars. 

In contrast to the morning, there was now an atmosphere of excitement. Supporters wearing "Make America Great Again" caps and waving giant Trump flags bustled down the sidewalks toward the National Mall. Around them, entrepreneurial vendors touted commemorative pins, shirts, hats, and other memorabilia. It felt almost like a beach town boardwalk at the height of summer. I spoke with an older couple outside of Trump International Hotel, now protected by three rows of fencing, who came up from Alabama to see their first inauguration. They had stopped outside of the hotel in hope that they might catch a glimpse of the President Elect. 

Closer to the White House, a crowd had gathered on the South lawn. Here, I began to see a few Obama supporters mixed in with the masses. One person held a Clinton / Kaine sign above their head. Some people had come to take one last jab at Obama while others were there to say thank you. Most came to take selfies. Somewhere in the crowd a slow and quiet rendition of Amazing Grace broke out. Around me, opposing groups passed inches away from each other and jostled for position, united at least in this moment by a mutual interest in having their picture taken in our nation's capital. 

I followed the echoing sound of distant, amplified music past the Washington Monument and towards the Lincoln Memorial and the welcome ceremony. It was around this time I noticed a puzzling commonality amongst many of the Trump supporters. Upon walking onto the mall, many of them began reciting lines from the Forrest Gump scene that takes place there. Calls of "Ginny" laden with thick, faux-southern accents punctuated the music. 

The welcome ceremony itself was surprisingly subdued. Even from the closest crowd barricade, it was impossible to see the performers a few feet away on an elevated stage. The younger members of the crowd showed little interest in most of the musical guests anyway and many of them sat or lay down on the ground. on the edges of the crowd. Then Donald Trump appeared. A slowly building cheer swept through the crowd as those further back, stuck watching the events on giant TV screens, realized he had arrived. 

On my walk home, I passed a handful of well wishers near the White House using the "Thanks Obama" phrase in a sincere way. They were greeted by a few kindred spirits who stopped to talk as well as several shouts of "yuck" and "no thanks" from passersby. A few yards past them, a security guard and an out of town visitor loudly debated political views.

Once I got to K Street, I saw the tell-tale slow moving line of police cars and bikes that indicate a protest. Although probably only 70 or 80 in number, the protestors managed to shut down the whole road as they marched East, away from the White House. They've changed the cadence of the chants since I first heard them on November 9 and 10 but the message is the same; "No Donald Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA." These kinds of small protests have been a nightly occurrence in DC during the week leading up to the inauguration. We reached 11th street as the last daylight started to fade and I turned and went home. 

This Was 2016

I've never done a yearly recap post before but 2016 was such a crazy year, I think for everyone, and I wanted to take some time at the end of it to look back on the last 365 days. Since this time in 2015, I changed jobs, moved to a new city, photographed a wedding for the first time then photographed 3 more, photographed my first concert in Europe, went to the DNC, photographed protestors in DC, photographed a whole bunch of concerts, met a lot of cool people, rediscovered my love for video, and pushed myself creatively more than ever before. 

I'm not sure what 2017 will be like but I do know it will be interesting and I'll have my camera with me to capture it. 

Until we start again with new resolutions, promises, and goals on January 1, I hope you enjoy this look back at 2016. 

Todd + Jess - Engagement Photos

Here are a few of the many photos from Todd and Jess' engagement shoot this past weekend in Richmond, VA. These two are so great to work with and I cannot wait to photograph their Wedding in May!

If you'd like to book an engagement or wedding shoot with me, or just want to talk about wedding photography in general, please get in touch here: http://www.jamessaulsky.com/weddings/

The Watsons - Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

It was an absolute pleasure second shooting this gorgeous wedding for Mary Otanez Photography. We first met on a Chips Ahoy! photo shoot just after she'd put in her last 2 weeks at work to take up photography full time. Since then, I've watched her grow her business by leaps and bounds and was stoked on the chance to work together. 

Congratulations to The Watsons on a beautiful wedding and I hope you enjoy these photos from their incredible October wedding at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens! 

If you're interested in booking me for your wedding or engagement shoot I'd love to hear from you! Click here to get in touch.