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A Different View

Photographer ‘Looks Up’ for Book on Capitol

From the Old Senate Chamber to the Rotunda, Marty LaVor photographed it all in a new and unusual way — looking up.

LaVor’s new book, “The Capitol: See It Again for the First Time — Looking Up,” presents unique views of his beloved Capitol, a place where he spent 25 years of his professional career working as a committee staffer on the House Education and Labor Committee and on the Senate Aging Committee. He retired in 1982 to pursue a full-time career as a freelance photojournalist, a hobby and a passion he had been pursuing for many years.

LaVor began his photographic study of Washington, D.C., 12 years ago by chance and pure coincidence while waiting at the Supreme Court for Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) and his family to arrive for their annual Christmas card photograph. The Congressman was late because the family’s sheepdog was ill, and while he waited, LaVor decided to test out a fisheye lens he had purchased a day or so earlier.

“What I saw intrigued me because there were patterns and designs I had never noticed before,” he said in the prologue to his new book.

The result? A book of photography titled “Washington: See It Again for the First Time — Looking Up.” LaVor spent close to a decade photographing various locations throughout Washington, D.C., and finally published the book in 2003.

His new book was an unplanned follow-up to the first. LaVor said he had not intended to do another book. “It was a fluke,” he said. But one day while walking through the Capitol Crypt, he decided to take a picture using his digital camera equipped with a 360-degree fisheye lens, different from the 180-degree lens he had used in the previous book.

“It just blew my mind,” he said of the resulting photograph. LaVor said he was so amazed by the image that he decided to explore further and literally saw the Capitol “for the first time — looking up.”

The fisheye view embellishes the colors, shapes and designs of the areas that he photographed, making them brighter, larger and more intense than what a person would normally see with the naked eye. A small hallway or room appears to stretch and becomes much larger in the circular view. LaVor added another dimension by placing the camera lens directly on some of the many mirrors throughout the Capitol to make double images of rooms.

He created his new book to present a view of the Capitol that most people would never notice. “Even if you have a chance to look, you don’t have enough time to look,” he said. Most people don’t walk around with their eyes pointed at the ceiling; they concentrate only on the destination and not on the journey. That is the goal of LaVor’s new book, to show readers what is going on, right over their heads.

But not all of the photographs in the new book were taken by LaVor. One picture, a portrait of LaVor on the back cover, was taken by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). LaVor and DeWine were longtime colleagues on Capitol Hill, and a few years ago DeWine called his friend, inquiring about a camera. “He wanted to take pictures,” LaVor said, while discussing how he taught the Senator to use a camera by demonstrating on an identical one. DeWine snapped the picture of LaVor while experimenting. LaVor came across it again while working on the book and decided to use it. It is DeWine’s first published photograph, LaVor said.

As a way to give thanks for a lifetime of great Capitol Hill memories, LaVor and his wife, Joan, decided to donate all of the profits from the sale of the book to the United States Capitol Historical Society.

The 120-page book is for sale through the U.S. Capitol Historical Society only, and the money will help fund a new educational program for students at Anacostia High School called “Capitol Classroom.” The program is designed for 11th- and 12th-grade students and involves a one-day field trip to the Capitol. There they have the opportunity to meet with a Representative or Delegate as well as senior Congressional staff members and discuss the processes of democracy and legislation.

“I really like this book simply because it’s a place that I love, and I hope that people will walk through the Capitol and see it in a different way in the future,” LaVor said.

“The Capitol: See it Again for the First Time — Looking Up” can be purchased by calling the U.S. Capitol Historical Society at (202) 543-8919, ext.10.

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