- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Photographer Marty LaVor’s affection for the Capitol “is almost like a love story,” he says. He spent years working on the Hill — as a senior House staff member and as a consultant.

But after turning his photography hobby into a career, he spent several Sunday mornings taking pictures of many of the grand rooms, offices, galleries and staircases in the Capitol.

“The first time I walked through the Capitol I was awed by the sheer grandeur of the building, its history and importance to the world,” Mr. LaVor writes in the preface of his new book of photographs, “The Capitol, See It Again For The First Time — Looking Up.”

“Fortyyears laternothinghas changed. I still get the same thrill whenever I see it,” he writes.

The book has more than 100 colorful and dazzling shots taken with a fisheye lens that widens and bends the images, thus giving a perspective of the Capitol’s interior that Mr.LaVor says “we have been in, looked at, but never seen this way before.”

For all his years working in the halls of Congress, Mr. LaVor still was amazed by the upward glance that led to the book.

“Walking through the Capitol, I happened to have that little camera with me for some reason. I happened to stop in the Crypt” — the ground-floor gallery beneath the Rotunda — “I happened to look up, and I was stunned by that picture,” he said.

For his book, Mr. LaVor relied on a 360-degree fisheye lens, which projects the field of vision into a circular image that bulges in the center, with sides converging into the distance on either side. With the focus at the center, the rest of the picture becomes distorted. The result is a photo “totally different from anything you have ever seen,” Mr. LaVor says.

He said this is why the pictures in his book are generally unrecognizable even to people who work every day in the Capitol — even if they stand on the very spot where the picture was taken.

“Unless you have fisheye eyes, you can’t possibly see that,” he said.

The result lends a geometrical kaleidoscopic effect to the sculpted domes, massive columns, chandeliers, spiral staircases, gilded mirrors, vaulted frescoes and elaborate ceilings.

This is the second time Mr. LaVor has taken an upward glance at Washington. Two years ago, he published “Washington, See It Again For The First Time — Looking Up.” The idea of this perspective, he says, began one day 12 years ago with an old and sick sheepdog belonging to Rep. Michael G. Oxley, Ohio Republican. Mr. LaVor was scheduled to take the Oxley family portrait for the congressman’s annual Christmas card, but the dog’s condition delayed the family.

While waiting, Mr. LaVor tested a fisheye lens he had purchased a day earlier. “I was killing time. … I was just trying my new lens,” he says.

Mr. LaVor still wonders why he looked up and started exploring the Capitol from angles he never had noticed before. Intrigued by the results after the prints were developed, he spent many Sunday mornings driving around Washington and seeing government buildings in a different way, published in his first book.

“I started working on the Hill for the Congress in 1967. You think after all these years, you really have seen the buildings,” Mr. LaVor said. “But I was literally seeing them for the first time.”

Mr. LaVor, who declined to give his age, said he feels like a child despite his bald pate and graying beard.

“I didn’t have an agenda to do a book — I didn’t have an agenda to do anything,” he says. “That was simply something that was fun. There was no pressure; I didn’t have a deadline.”

Mr. LaVor and his wife are donating all proceeds from the new book to the United States Capitol Historical Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the Capitol and Congress.

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