DC/Adapters began in February of 2013 when I noticed how many adapted D.C. flags appeared in the commercial logos at Union Market, a food hall with many small vendors. Ever since, I've documented every adapted flag that I've encountered. What began as a project driven by my individual curiosity – how common is flag adaptation in D.C. and what does this all mean?, I asked myself back then -- has become a public research project about the power and appeal of the D.C. flag's design and the creativity of the District's residents as they adapt the flag for their own means and ends.
DC/Adapters is a process-based project, which means that it's driven by a set of rules I set out for myself in the beginning. For example, I only document adapted flags that I come across in my everyday movements around the District. I never collect doubles. Eventually, other people started sharing images with me, which I include because that's still a serendipitous encounter, but I still have never set out for a neighborhood that I wasn't going to anyway in order to look for adapted flags. This process means that DC/Adapters is driven the unanticipated encounter. It also means that DC/Adapters is not a representative sampling of flag adaptation across the entire District. What the project "samples," in the social scientific sense, is how I – one Washingtonian -- move through the city; I'm amplifying my encounters with people, places, and objects.
I have two goals for DC/Adapters, which have remained mostly constant over the years. First, I want to help people see D.C. differently, to experience the wonderful visual landscape of our community, and to be tuned into the ideas, arguments, joy, and humor articulated by adapted flags. Second, I hope that DC/Adapters also encourages people to participate in flag adaptation. I've become convinced that flag adaptation is a powerful tool for good in D.C., but I think we can do more to achieve statehood, resist economic and cultural displacement, and more if we all embrace our inner artist-activist. To help you along, I'd recommend taking a look at the Engage page on the site. Of course, I'd love it if you also checked out the Gallery and Map & Data Vis page to explore the entire collection.
I’m Matthew Pavesich, and when I'm not photographing adapted flags in alleys, bars, and everywhere else you can think of, I direct the University Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University.