BY PHIL HUTINET
Published concurrently in Capital Community News’ East of the River September print issue and online.
Ansel Adams once said “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” This strongly worded declaration came from a man who passed away three decades before the advent of digital photography and the widespread use of image processing software such as Photoshop.
Today, a new generation of photographers, who only know digital technology, have come of age in an era that has mostly relegated film developing to the annals of history. Adonis Miller, who was born and raised in the U Street NW corridor and now resides in Anacostia, counts himself among this generation.
However, despite what one would expect, Miller does not manipulate his digital photographs using image correcting software. “I try to capture the moment as it is without trying to change it” he explains. He uses a manual process and tries to anticipate the moment before snapping a shot. “Sometimes you take a picture expecting to capture something and the next thing you know, you have captured something you either didn’t notice or didn’t expect.”
Miller’s interest in photography began as early as Junior High School at Friendship Blow Pierce Academy in Eckington taking pictures for the school’s yearbook. He then attended Friendship Collegiate Academy in northeast DC where one of his teachers, Ms. Kauffman, took a strong interest in his work.
At Friendship Collegiate Academy, Miller excelled at photography taking pictures for his High School Newspaper. Ms. Kauffman submitted a series of pictures Miller took of classmates protesting the indictments of the “Jena 6” in 2006 to the Washington Post which the editors published in the National News section of the newspaper.
On the heels of his success, Miller applied to a two-and-a-half week program at Western Kentucky University called Envision. During this time, Miller deepened his understanding of photography and perfected his technical skillset.
Since graduating from High School, Miller has embarked on a number of commercial ventures as a photographer. The idea first came to him when he was asked to take pictures at a wedding to catch what the “official” wedding photographer may have missed. When the photos came back, the newlyweds looked at Miller’s pictures and were astonished to see how much better his images were than the photographer they hired. Since then, Miller has freelanced extensively taking family portraits, pictures of weddings, baby showers and other momentous occasions.
Miller also thoroughly enjoys photographing his hometown. “People come from all over to see what I see every day” explains Miller, “I take pictures of the same things that they’re seeing but from a different angle.”
Take for instance Miller’s snapshots of the Capitol Dome. To many, the Capitol symbolizes Washington, DC. People come from all over the country and the world to see this building and get a glimpse of the institution it houses.
Like most Washingtonians, Miller sees these landmarks as backdrops to daily routines. However, depending on where we live, the Capitol dome’s vantage point changes remarkably. The throngs of tourists that descend upon Washington see the Capitol from the vantage point of the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Capitol Hill Residents see the capitol from the vantage point of tree-lined East Capitol Street. Eckington residents see the capitol from the heavily trafficked North Capitol street just as their neighbors to the south, in Southwest and the Capitol riverfront have an almost industrial view of the dome as the skyline is broken up by the Capitol’s power plant.
The hilly topography of the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia affords residents a multitude of vantage points to see the dome. When driving into the city on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the landmark seemingly lures motorist forward. Seen from the crests of Anacostia’s hills, the Capitol almost looks like a model found in an architect’s office.
Benning Road NE provides the sightline of Miller’s Capitol dome. He has captured two images of the dome, one during the day and one at night from a vantage point known only to local residents and commuters. This is not the vantage point of the tourists, the media or of residents who live west of the Anacostia River.
Both images capture a side of Washington few people see. “DC is a small town but not in a bad way,” says Miller, “It just amazes me that a tourist and I can look at the same building and see something completely different while being in the same town. I wanted to capture that with these photos.”
Miller looks forward to continuing his work as a photographer and would like to explore new methods such as traditional wet lab processes and using software to treat his digital photos. “I’m interested in the artistry of photography and the different aspects of it.” He hopes to one day have studio space to grow his practice.