what’s an american road trip without a stop in our nation’s capital, am I right? from the white house to the washington monument, everything in dc is synonymous with the good ol’ u s of a! while the city is overwhelmingly known for politics and history, we found it has so much more to offer. since it’s also home to the iconic smithsonian institute
, you know some of the best and most innovative museums and galleries in the nation call dc home. with so many places to see and things to eat we had to get a list of recommendations from a local.
luckily, holly garner
, well known dc based photographer and self-proclaimed cat herder, agreed to be our tour guide. she’s watched the city grow, change and evolve for the better part of 15 years, so she knows what’s up and showed us the best time ever! we recommend adding her favorites to your dc bucket list
keep reading to get to know our favorite cool cat lady (seriously, she loves cats) and our nation’s capital a little better.
how do you unleash your creativity?
hg: the simple truth is that I've never felt particularly creative myself. I went to school for art history because I love and appreciate art and creativity but I have never had a creative mind. so I'm always observing. I take photos of things that capture me. my education has taught me to recognize good design, interesting framing, the emotion of color, a unique perspective, etc. and I try to apply those elements into my photos. I'm always inspired to see how others push their own creativity and the boundaries of photography through staging, editing and manipulation and I certainly take notes and draw inspiration from them. little by little, I do try to experiment and move outside of my own box or style.
how long have you been in dc?
hg: I moved to dc for graduate school during the summer of 2001. I was lucky to experience dc before 9/11 and the security changes that came with the tragedy. it was a different city then, not better or worse, just different. I've enjoyed growing with the city as it has evolved from a politically-driven place full of suits and power lunches and into a cultural destination where local goods are celebrated and personal expression is rewarded and encouraged. it's really an exciting and richly-layered city now.
best place to grab a cup a joe?
best place to grab a bite to eat?
hg: to say I have a love for pizza is an understatement. for some of the best pies in dc, I head to comet ping pong
. the front half is dining and the back half is filled with ping pong tables, foos ball and transforms into a concert venue at times. it's an inventive, delicious, casual atmosphere. a recent new favorite is slash run
, a burger place near where I live. their selection of whisky is impressive and I love that the jukebox is full of punk and metal. my go-to is the rotating selection of tuna burgers.
where to hit up for a night out?
hg: my favorite late-night place is 9:30 club
. the historic music venue has their thumb on the pulse of the music scene and they have always played host to the up-and-coming talents, as well as the greats looking for an intimate club. everyone has played here and they support our local community like no other.
any local inspiration?
hg: I am inspired by everything around me but most of all, by my amazing igdc
photography community. igdc
is an instagram group I founded in oct. 2011, and it includes some of the friendliest, most supportive and creative people I know. I'm in constant awe of their drive and motivation to show off our city every day and in turn, it inspires me to continue planning events, photowalks, collaborations with local businesses, etc. so that they always have someplace new and different to explore.
what’s your favorite hidden gem in dc?
hg: blind whino arts club
! housed in the former church building of the historic friendship baptist church, the art space is covered in exterior murals by HENSE
and interior murals by MEGGS
inside. the place is a visual delight and the changing exhibits are always interesting. I always try to bring visitors here since the experience is so incredible.
finish this sentence: “if you come to dc, you cannot miss ________”
hg: it sounds cliché but you can't miss the monuments. they are impressive and architecturally beautiful spaces. my favorites are the lincoln memorial for sunrise and the jefferson memorial for sunset. and the washington monument is perfect any time.
where/how to spend your saturday?
hg: if I'm not running a photo event or out shooting with friends I'm likely spending time with my boyfriend and our dogs. we are constantly exploring the DMV area… after a leisurely morning at home, that is.
what does the city of dc mean to you?
hg: strangely enough, dc means community and home. I've formed some incredible bonds here and finally feel like I'm a local in my adopted home. as big and metropolitan as dc can be perceived, it really is just a small town in disguise.
any plans for this summer?
hg: yes! I'm super excited about a trip to iceland and scotland. I've never been to iceland and cannot wait to explore the landscape. scotland is magical and I'm especially excited about sharing it with family that has never been. It will be such a beautiful and inspiring trip.
as the country’s capital, what makes dc feel like america’s home?
hg: once you get past the politics and and intimidation of dc, the city is pretty small. I run into people everywhere just like I did when I lived in smaller towns as a child. the circle of friends I have destroy the perception people have of people here being cut-throat in their ambitions. there is an element of that, sure, but I've found there's a much softer side of dc now than there was when I first moved here. it's a more homey and welcoming place where people are proud to live here and not simply buying their time until they transition elsewhere.
with the olympics coming up, we want to know your favorite olympic sport and/or athlete?
hg: I don't follow sports much but I do enjoy the power and grace of gymnasts and the fast-paced swim competitions.
our thoughts: dc has definitely got it goin’ on! if you’re planning on heading to the nation’s capital anytime soon, don’t miss the greeks exhibition
at the national geographic museum
(if you haven’t picked up on this yet, we’re totally geeking out over the summer olympics coming up in rio. since this exhibit celebrates 5,000 years of greek history, including the birthplace of the olympics, you know it rocks).
images via holly garner