Seeing the Stories Behind the News | The Washington Center

Seeing the Stories Behind the News

My dad has always been enamored with candid photographs - he says that they capture the authenticity of life and prefers them to fake, posed pictures. For a long time, I thought that he was just trying to eternally freeze my most embarrassing moments in a single frame. After spending a day in the Newseum, however, the power of a candid photograph no longer escapes me. I hate to admit it, but my Dad was right.


This is a photo of my Dad, candidly celebrating the fact that he is right.


The Newseum

This weekend, I spent time at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to honoring and highlighting the news to prove to the world that there’s more to every story. The museum opened in 2008 and is considered to be one of the most interactive museums in the world. Dedicated to freedom of expression and the unalienable freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Newseum is a tribute to all those who risk their lives to speak their mind.

Courtesy of Wikipedia


The Newseum draws you in and piques your curiosity by showcasing the front pages of newspapers around the world in an exhibit on the sidewalk called Today's Front Pages. The Newseum offers front pages to passerbys and guests alike with this gallery of every newspaper from Alabama’s The Birmingham News to Hawaii’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, served fresh daily. At this museum, the news never sleeps (no really, the employees must never sleep if they are changing out these newspapers every morning before the rest of the Washington D.C. wakes up).


The 9/11 Gallery features a piece of the World Trade Center before a backdrop of front page newspapers that account the tragic terror attacks.


The Newseum is home to some incredibly powerful exhibits - like the 9/11 Gallery (pictured above) and Journalists Memorial - alongside some lighthearted ones - like the "First Dogs" and the NBC Interactive Newsroom. The curators struck the perfect balance when they constructed this museum; by the time you have made your way through each gallery, you have experienced the whole realm of emotions (Amy Poehler and the Inside Out team would be very proud).


Broadcasting live from the NBC Interactive Newsroom


The Pulitzer Prize Gallery



My favorite exhibit was the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. The photos in this gallery are familiar; I've seen them in many a textbook, essay and lecture. Many of these photographs have become a staple in framing the narrative of our history as human beings.

When I think of World War II, the image of soldiers raising an American flag on the shores of Iwo Jima comes to mind:


Courtesy of the Newseum


When I think of Vietnam, I think of the photograph of the little girl running naked through the napalm:


Courtesy of the Newseum


When I think of the terror attacks of 9/11, I think of the photograph of the Twin Towers engulfed in flames:


Courtesy of the Newseum

When I think of the refugee crisis, I think of the photograph of refugees aboard a small wooden boat approaching safety as they near a Greek shore:


Courtesy of the Newseum


Each of these images has a place in history, in our hearts and in the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. Through these photographs, photographers offer us their eyes as they capture the rawest moments of life.

Though the Newseum was bustling and highly trafficked, the gallery was quiet as guests felt the weight of these images wash over them. Strangers and friends moved from image to image feeling with our whole bodies the power of these images, connecting with our collective history as we connected with each photograph. Some of the photos left bruises on our hearts while others helped to heal them.

What really struck me about these images was that while they have become part of our story, the people who captured them are often not remembered or considered in the narrative. This gallery works to change that by incorporating the photographers' experience in taking the photographs along with the stories of those within the image.

This gallery is home to some of the most triumphant, sobering and vulnerable moments in history, all thanks to a candid photograph. As I walked through this gallery, I couldn't help but hear my dad's voice saying, "I told you so."


On a personal note:

This post's song is called Freedom by Allen Stone. It's groovy and has some lyrics that are definitely on brand with the Newseum's mission to honor freedom of expression.


Read Julie's previous blog posts

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