Hundreds Shine Their Lights in Washington, D.C., for RIT’s 25th Big Shot Photograph

Nighttime image features Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

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Rochester Institute of Technology

The 2009 Big Shot “painting with light,” featuring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., taken Sept. 26.

Families, friends and strangers united on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., tonight to make Rochester Institute of Technology’s 25th Big Shot photograph. RIT’s Big Shot project began in 1987 and draws hundreds of willing volunteers no matter what city or country it occurs.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, which opened its flagship museum five years ago this month, is the subject of the nighttime image. The Washington Monument is in the background. Perched on 15-foot high scaffolding, RIT photographers captured the landscape of our nation’s capital.

Despite rainy conditions, tonight’s event drew more than 800 volunteers. Families from the Washington, D.C., area joined museum members and RIT students, faculty and alumni. The making of the Big Shot photograph requires the volunteers, using only flashlights and camera flash units to provide the primary light source. It is often described as a “painting with light” photograph, because while RIT photographers shoot an extended exposure of 20 seconds, volunteers continuously paint the subject area. The limestone exterior of the museum was quarried from Kasota, Minn., and is a warm buff color that has several textures to suggest the building grew out of the surrounding landscape.

Volunteers broke into lighting teams with each team assigned a specific area of the landmark to illuminate. For tonight’s image, 11 lighting teams were needed. In addition, eight volunteers from RIT and the museum served as models, taking position in the foreground to offer the photo a sense of scale.

Among tonight’s rookie volunteers were RIT President Bill Destler and his wife, Rebecca Johnson.

“We were excited to be a part of this rich RIT tradition and see so many members of the RIT campus take part including our RIT alumni who traveled here from all over the country,” says Destler. “We are proud to be sharing our 25th Big Shot with this national landmark that is a cultural embassy to Native Americans everywhere.”

The RIT Big Shot event is part of the museum’s fall celebrations for its fifth anniversary.

“In spite of the rain, families, friends of the museum and RIT alumni showed up with flashlights in hand,” says Kevin Gover (Pawnee/Comanche), director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “We are so proud to be part of RIT’s Big Shot.”

Faculty members Michael Peres and Bill DuBois from RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and Dawn Tower DuBois from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf are the main organizers.

RIT’s Big Shot photography project began in 1987 and has drawn thousands of volunteers and spectators. Past Big Shot photos have captured national and international landmarks including the U.S.S. Intrepid, the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden, and George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. To view all past 25 Big Shot photographs, visit

Photo Credit: Rochester Institute of Technology Big Shot

Additional Media Contacts:

Leonda Levchuk
 National Museum of the American Indian
(202) 663-6613;

Eileen Maxwell
National Museum of the American Indian
(202) 663-6615;