Aren’t the cherry blossom tourists just beautiful this time of year? The cherry blossoms are okay too, but that’s not really my thing. I’m not one of these cherry blossom tourists you see everywhere. No, I’m a cherry blossom tourist tourist. Every spring, I flock to the Tidal Basin to see and photograph the people who flock to the Tidal Basin to see and photograph the cherry blossoms.
Why? Because the Cherry Blossom Festival is such an odd ritual and I enjoy watching confused tourists try and figure out what to do with themselves when they get to the trees. That’s all it is: a bunch of flowering trees. Which are lovely, don’t get me wrong. But the odd thing is, people don’t come to see the cherry trees because they’re into flowers or trees. On their way to the Tidal Basin, they’ll ignore gorgeous flowering magnolia and redbud trees and pass patches of hyacinth and daffodils without even noticing. People are drawn to the Cherry Blossom Festival simply because the cherry trees are celebrities.
A cherry tree-lined Tidal Basin is a great place to sit and read or take a quiet, reflective stroll; it’s a totally incongruous place for a large crowd full of rambunctious children. There’s all the atmosphere of a state fair, but there are no games or rides. You can’t even buy food. So you’ve just got thousands of people, wandering around, staring at famous trees. No one really knows what to do, except take pictures. Hundreds and hundreds of pictures. This is what I come to see.
A cherry tree covered in thousands of whitish pink flowers is a pretty sight. A row of hundreds of flowering cherry trees lining a body of water and framing national monuments can be breathtaking. But the punch line of the Cherry Blossom Festival is that the tourists, unsure of what to do with themselves or how to appreciate the ephemeral beauty of springtime flowers, just end up taking a bunch of obligatory close up photos of identical individual blossoms. And while every cherry blossom is basically the same, every cherry blossom tourist taking a close up photo of a cherry blossom is unique and beautiful in its own way. I like to get up real close and take pictures of the tourists getting up real close to take pictures.
Look at these stunning shots I got this year: