The newest museum on the National Mall is also the hardest one to get into because it so popular: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which first opened to huge crowds in September of 2016 and has hosted over 4.5 million visitors since that time.
Why is the NMAAHC so popular? Because it lays out in dramatic, realistic and colorful form the 400-year history of the African American experience in the United States, from the sordid days of slavery, through the Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the civil rights era, right up to the present time, highlighting the incredible contributions made by African Americans to the tapestry of the American experience in peace, in war, in struggle, in literature, education, science, in arts and music and dance and athletics.
And all of this makes great subjects for photography. The museum pulls no punches. You will photograph drawings of the hold of a slave ship, seeing hundreds of slaves manacled to the hull, laid end to end like sardines in a can, plus drawings of a slave block in Charleston, SC, where slave families were ripped apart and sold to separate owners. You will find a fully reconstructed slave cabin and the manacles and chains used to herd slaves to their destinations.
There is also a Tuskegee Airmen airplane from World War II hanging from the ceiling, a Pullman railroad car, and special exhibits honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and most recently, the late Aretha Franklin. There are cars, dresses, guitars, suits, musical instruments, Chuck Berry’s HUGE red Cadillac, and slave rebellion leader Nat Turner’s Bible.
The architecture of the building itself is quite unique. It was designed by architect David Adjaye in the form of a “corona” a multi-tiered headdress worn in Ghana, and it is a great subject for architectural photography by day and by night
Architectural photographer and Washington Photo Safari Director E. David Luria leads this safari in the museum, showing clients how to get the best angles and settings for composition, exposure, white balance and ISO settings for any camera or phone. For this safari we suggest you bring a wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens of at least 100mm, and fast lens such as a 50 mm F1.4 or 50 mm F1.8 or a 35 mm F1. 8 No tripods allowed. We also suggest you wear black or dark clothing so that your body can block reflections of indoor lighting on the display cases through which you are shooting.
Here is a sample of some of the images one can achieve on this safari
Limited to 6 clients. Meet at Museum entrance on the Mall side, 1400 Constitution Ave NW, closest Metros are Smithsonian and Federal Center, very limited street parking. Bring camera, all lenses, no tripod. Smartphone cameras perfectly acceptable for this safari.